According to a new study, a significant number of sleep-related deaths among infants are related to sleeping on the couch. Researchers found that approximately one out of eight cases of sudden and sleep-related infant deaths happen on couches and in more than 50% of cases, while lying next to another person.
Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and one of the study’s authors stated the study was conducted due to a lack of data pertaining to factors of sleep-related infant deaths on couches.
Data on 7,934 sleep-related infant deaths, those 12 months or younger, was gathered between 2004 and 2012 from 24 states. After conducting an in-depth analysis, it was discovered that 12% of those deaths occurred while the baby was asleep on a couch.
In addition, when compared to other sleep-related deaths, those involving a couch were 20% more likely to have an unclear cause of death while 90% were more likely to have a classification of suffocation. The study also showed that most of the babies who died had never slept on a couch before or only on a few occasions.
Colvin added that in the data analyzed, the couch was not the usual sleeping location for the infants, which indicates the couch was used as a place for the baby to nap rather than sleep overnight. Also, the majority of infants were found on their side, which as written in the journal Pediatrics, researchers believe the natural slope of couches allowed the babies to roll easily and then become wedged between cushions.
Another interesting discovery was that most babies who died while sleeping on couches were also exposed to tobacco while still in the mother’s womb. However, the connection between sleep-related deaths for babies on couches and smoking is hard to explain, according to Dr. Colvin.
Overall, parents need to heed the warning that comes from this study – the couch can be a very dangerous and even deadly place for babies to sleep. Instead, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that infants be placed on a flat and firm surface, opposed to the soft cushions of a couch. As Colvin puts it, parents should follow the ABCs of safe sleeping – “Alone on their Backs in Cribs”.