Deadly danger of babies sleeping in bed with parents

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), has hit the headlines again with a Tasmanian coroner having to remind parents of the dangers of sharing their bed with their baby.

A new push to spread awareness of the risk factors has come about as a result of a court case in Tasmania where coroner Olivia McTaggart found four tragic infant deaths in Tasmania were as a result of an unsafe sleeping environment.

The investigation into four infant deaths in 2005 and 2006, found that three died from sudden infant death syndrome where the cause of death given was bronchopneumonia in circumstances of bed sharing or an unsafe sleeping environment and the fourth was killed when a parent accidentally rolled on to the baby and smothered it.

In her findings, Ms McTaggart referred to figures on overlaying, asphyxia or undetermined causes of infant deaths for 34 Tasmanian babies under the age of 12 months between May 1999 and July 2006.

Ms McTaggart says in 33 of these 34 infant deaths the circumstances involved an unsafe sleeping environment and the infants died while co-sleeping with one or both parents in an adult bed.

Nine deaths occurred after the infant had been put to sleep in their own cot, but on their stomach or side and Ms McTaggart has emphasised the importance of sleeping infants on their backs.

Additional risk factors in many of these deaths were the infant apparently being in an overheated environment, parental smoking and parents' consumption of alcohol and drugs.

Ms McTaggart has called for health officials to push for a prevention strategy to educate parents and carers about the safest ways for babies to sleep which has been welcomed by experts.

Peter Dargaville from the Council for Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity says while SIDS rates have fallen dramatically in the past 15 years, more needs to be done to spread the word and update guidelines.

Experts say even though information is already provided by maternity hospitals and newborn units to new parents about the need to avoid sleeping with their baby in bed with them, it is tragically clear that the message is not always getting through.

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