The topic of sleeping practices for infants is a controversial one, with the American Academy of Pediatrics advising against bed-sharing and proponents of the practice arguing for its benefits. Now, a new study published in Pediatrics suggests having an infant sleep on a sofa - even for a nap - is especially risky.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the safest place for a baby to sleep is in the room with its carers but not in their bed. A recent study from the organization suggested that bed-sharing is the greatest risk factor for sleep-related infant deaths.
However, another study, published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2013 suggested that mothers who bed-share with their infants breastfeed longer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) - the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation - is the leading cause of death among infants under 12 months old.
Because sleep-related infant deaths are typically linked to an infant's unsafe sleep environment, researchers from this latest study analyzed data for infant deaths on sofas from 24 states between 2004-2012 from the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths Case Reporting System database.
Infants found dead on sofas more likely to be placed face-down, on side
After assessing the data, the researchers found that out of 9,073 sleep-related infant deaths, 12.9% occurred on sofas, with 72% of these deaths happening in infants between 0-3 months of age.
According to the team, infants who died on sofas were more likely to be non-Hispanic whites, at 44.8% of deaths.
The infants who died on sofas were more likely to be sharing the sofa with another person, and although babies were most commonly placed on their backs to sleep, the infants found on sofas were more likely to be placed face-down or on their sides.
Additionally, the infants found on sofas were much more likely to have mothers who used tobacco during pregnancy. The AAP list smoking during pregnancy or being exposed to others' smoke during pregnancy as a risk factor for SIDS when the baby is born.
Infants whose sleep-related deaths were linked to sofa sleeping were also more likely to have objects in the environment, the researchers add.
They say their results suggest that, even while napping, sofa sleeping with an infant is very dangerous and is linked with an increased risk of death. As such, they caution that it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of these dangers and inform themselves about safe sleeping tips.
According to the CDC, the overall rate of SIDS in the US has decreased by over 50% since 1990. However, rates for non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native babies has remained "disproportionately higher than the rest of the population."
A recent study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics suggested bed-sharing may impair sleep quality.