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New Research on Co-Sleeping

Co-sleeping is a practice in which babies and young children sleep close to one or both parents, typically in the same bed or in adjacent beds.  New research by Sally Baddock, associate professor of midwifery at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, suggests that there may be some risks associated with co-sleeping.

*Co-sleeping increases the number of times that babies’ level of oxygen in their blood drops during the night.  For most healthy infants, the oxygen level does not typically drop to a level that can compromise their health.

*Co-sleeping increases babies’ re-breathing (which is the breathing in of previously exhaled air).  Because our bodies need to breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, re-breathing increases babies’ intake of carbon dioxide.  Most healthy babies respond to this by automatically increasing their respiration to keep the level of oxygen in their blood within normal range.

*The risks noted above are minimal for healthy babies with non-smoking parents who are alert for breathing obstructions (i.e., blankets, pillows, and pajamas that may cover babies’ heads or noses and restrict the intake of oxygen).   However, the risks increase for unhealthy babies, babies whose mothers smoked while they were pregnancy, babies who live with current smokers, and babies whose parents are not alert for breathing obstructions.

In sum, this study does not state that co-sleeping is ill advised.  The study simply states that parents need to assess their risk factors (i.e., health of babies and parents’ smoking habits).  If parents choose to co-sleep, they should be alert for breathing obstructions.

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