Infant Journal
for neonatal and paediatric healthcare professionals

RCM stresses need for parent caution when sleeping with babies

Many sudden deaths of babies could potentially be avoided if parents received more support to ensure a safer sleep environment for their babies – that’s the message from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in new guidance for midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs).

The RCM recognises that co-sleeping in any situation can potentially be dangerous for the baby if parents do not have the right advice and information. It also acknowledges that many parents end up sharing a sleeping surface with their babies, even if they had not planned to do so. The new guidance is designed to give midwives and MSWs the information and evidence to support parents to minimise the potential risks to their baby as much as possible.

The RCM guidance says that new parents should be advised not to share a sleeping surface with their baby particularly if they smoke, have drunk alcohol, used drugs which makes them drowsy, or if their baby was born premature or with a low birth weight. It stresses the importance of a flat and clear sleep space; sleeping with the baby on a sofa or armchair is discouraged.

Around 300 babies and infants die suddenly and unexpectedly every year in England and Wales and no cause is found for two-thirds of them. Many have been linked with babies having an unsafe sleeping environment. NHS trusts and boards will also have their own guidance around co-sleeping and the RCM’s guidance should be used together with that local advice and information.

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Royal College of Midwives