Despite recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that infants always be placed on their backs to sleep, and that they share a room with parents but not a bed, about 4,000 babies die each year from sleep-related deaths involving suffocation and strangulation in beds.
These findings will be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Annual Meeting taking place May 3-6, 2014 in Vancouver, BC.
According to the study, these deaths from SIDS or SUID (sudden unexpected infant death) are seen more often among black families.
"We found that many infants are not placed to sleep on the back, and many still routinely share a bed during sleep," said lead author Eve Colson, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.
Colson and her colleagues collected data from 1,276 mothers recruited from 32 hospitals across the country, which were chosen to provide a nationally representative sample of behavior. The participants completed an in-depth survey about infant care practices including bed sharing and infant sleeping positions.
The team found that 28% of Hispanic parents, 18% of black parents, and 13% of white parents share a bed with their infants. Prone (stomach) sleeping, which has an even higher risk of leading to SIDS and SUID, was particularly common among black infants, with 22% of those infants being placed on their stomachs.
"The estimated national prevalence of bed sharing is quite high at 18.5%," said Colson. "It is clear that more needs to be done to provide safe environments for all infants while they sleep."