Bed sharing has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and may contribute to the racial disparity seen in infant mortality. It is unclear how bed sharing interacts with other factors to impact SIDS risk. We aimed to measure the effects of bed sharing on risk of SIDS in blacks and to determine whether the risk is modified by other characteristics of the sleep environment.
Characteristics of 195 black infants who died of SIDS were compared with matched controls. The moderating influence of known SIDS risk factors on the effect of bed sharing on risk of SIDS was examined using logistic regression.
Almost half (47.4%) of the study population bed shared during the last/reference sleep (58% cases and 37% controls). Bed sharing was associated with 2 times greater risk of SIDS compared with not bed sharing. The deleterious effect of bed sharing was more pronounced with a soft sleep surface, pillow use, maternal smoking, and younger infant age. However, bed sharing was still associated with an increased risk of SIDS, even when the infant was not using a pillow or sleeping on a firm surface. The strongest predictors of SIDS among bed-sharing infants were soft sleep surface, nonuse of a pacifier, and maternal smoking during pregnancy.
Bed sharing is a common practice among black infants. It is associated with a clear and strong increased risk of SIDS, which is even greater when combined with other known risk factors for SIDS. This practice likely contributes to the excess incidence of SIDS among blacks, and culturally competent education methods must be developed to target this high-risk group.