The dark side of co-sleeping – Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall

The key to reducing cot deaths due to co-sleeping is educating and equipping families so they can provide a safe sleeping environment for their children, writes Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall at

A small child takes a nap in a white blanketed cribAn excerpt (read in full):

There has been some concern surrounding the lack of evidence-based research into the risks of co-sleeping. Coroners have endorsed the proposition that further evidence-based research needs to be conducted to address these concerns.

Professor [Ed] Mitchell’s latest nationwide project, funded by the Health Research Council, is looking at modifiable risk factors for SIDS, particularly those relating to bed sharing and what makes bed sharing safer or more dangerous. The project aims to provide evidence-based research into the risks of co-sleeping. This will help to fulfil coroners’ desire for an evidence-based set of national guidelines to be implemented by health and medical organisations in New Zealand.

Although significant efforts have been made to draw attention to the risks of co-sleeping, there remain too many children losing their lives due to unsafe sleeping environments.

Coroners implore families to implement safe sleeping practices and organisations involved in child health to provide consistent teaching and information to families. As stated by Coroner Sue Johnson, it cannot be guaranteed that every baby even with the best care will not die of SIDS, but parents and caregivers can and should eliminate risks and so reduce SIDS deaths.

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