© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Kansas Health Advocates Warn Parents Against Sharing Bed With Infants

Mark Baylor
Creative Commons-Flickr
Health experts recommend that infants should sleep alone in a crib without blankets.

Health advocates have a simple message for parents: Don’t share a bed with your baby.

Unfortunately, it’s a message many Kansas parents aren’t taking to heart.

In 2016, seven infants in Sedgwick County died sleeping in the same bed with their parents, a practice that can lead to suffocation. That’s equal to the bed sharing deaths in Wichita for all of 2015.

Three infants in Leavenworth County this year have also died sharing beds.

“What I’ve learned from the parents I’ve talked to is: They just never thought it could happen to them,” says Christy Schunn, executive director of the Kansas Infant Death and SIDS Network.

Sharing a bed, or what Schunn calls “co-bedding,” doesn’t typically happen because the parents don’t have a separate place for their baby to sleep.

Instead, it’s more likely to result from parents’ exhaustion, drug or alcohol use, or  misinformation about infant safety.

“The majority of the deaths that we’re seeing are when people have just decided that I’m going to go ahead and co-bed with my baby, and often there’s a crib in the room but it’s not being utilized,” Schunn says.

Co-bedding has been championed by some infant care groups but rejected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released a study in 2014 showing bed sharing to be the greatest risk factor for sleep-related infant deaths.

Co-bedding shouldn’t be confused with “co-sleeping,” the practice of sleeping in the same room with an infant, which is recommended by the AAP.

Health experts recommend that infants should sleep alone in a crib without blankets.

Schunn says the State Child Death Review Board of Kansas is examining the co-bedding deaths to better understand how they occurred, and whether they might provide lessons to guide prevention strategies.

Alex Smith is a reporter for KCUR, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @AlexSmithKCUR

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.