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Empowering families to make informed choices about sleep safety

02 March 2015
Volume 23 · Issue 3

In December 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued updated recommendations for health professionals on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and co-sleeping (sleeping with a baby on a bed, sofa or arm-chair) (NICE, 2014a). This was the result of a ‘rapid’ (year-long) review prompted by a study in BMJ Open that hit the headlines in 2013. The update forms part of NICE Guidance 37: Routine Postnatal Care of Women and their Babies, which should be familiar to all midwives, health visitors and GPs.

The new guidance advises that parents should be informed, during antenatal and postnatal contacts, of the statistical association between co-sleeping and SIDS, but does not tell parents to never sleep with their babies. The key message is that health professionals must give parents balanced information to help them make decisions about where their babies sleep (NICE, 2014b). Those parents who need the most careful guidance are those who smoke or did so during pregnancy—the association with SIDS is strongest in this group. Evidence also suggests a potential association between SIDS and co-sleeping for babies born prematurely, with low birth weight, or with parents who co-sleep after consuming alcohol or drugs, so these situations also warrant special attention.

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