Safe Sleep: Why sharing a bed with your baby is dangerous

Saturday Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

SAN ANTONIO – Losing a child is devastating and unfortunately there are many parents who are remembering the ones they lost -- as Saturday Oct. 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Many may be surprised to learn the overwhelming majority of infant death in our region is caused by unsafe sleep practices.

"There is no mistaking that the overwhelming majority of infants who die specifically under a year of age but more specifically less than 6 months of age...involve an unsafe sleep environment of some sort," said Bear County Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. William McClain.

In 2015, the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office found that 94-percent of 'sudden unexplained infant deaths' were linked to unsafe sleep conditions and/or bed-sharing.

It's why doctors say sometimes simpler is better. You don't need all the fluffy stuffed animals in your baby's bed, he or she just needs to be in a safe separate sleeping place with a nice hard mattress.

"[Babies] can't lift their head up and get out of that soft bedding or they can easily become entangled in soft bedding or get stuck underneath that cute bear and not be able to get themselves out of it and not be able to breathe," University Hospital Neonatologist Dr. Jean Petershack said.

That's why doctors explain babies need their own separate sleeping space. Even though hospital doctors warn new parents of the dangers, McClain said bed-sharing is a dangerous trend that is increasing at alarming rates, with not only suffocation a risk factor, but even more devastating is a parent unintentionally rolling over and smothering their child.

"Every single one of these cases is probably stemming from the parents overwhelming drive to keep their baby happy and healthy-- that's really perhaps the cruelest part," McClain said.

Doctors add that it's important to have the baby on his or her back when sleeping. For parents worried about being too far from their baby, Petershack suggests parents keep their baby in the room with them, but have the infant sleep separately in a crib or bassinet so you can easily pick them up and put them back to sleep.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development has more information and videos on safe sleep practices at www.nichd.nih.gov/sts.