Parents and caregivers need to be aware that it’s dangerous for babies to sleep on sofas because it increases the risk of suffocation and entrapment in the cushions, says pediatrician and SIDS researcher Rachel Moon, MD.

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Moon and other researchers found a strong association between sleeping on sofas and infant deaths.

“Too many people simply don’t know the risks of having infants sleep on sofas,” Dr. Moon said.

The dangers of sofa sleeping

Dr. Moon and other researchers studied information supplied by 24 states from 2004 through 2012 to the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths Case Reporting System database. They found that of more than 9,000 sleep-related infant deaths, about 1,000 occurred on sofas. About 72 percent of the deaths involved babies aged 0 to 3 months.

Some studies have shown that, compared to other surfaces, sleeping on a sofa places a baby at a 49 to 67 percent increased risk for death, says Dr. Moon.

“Soft bedding, sleeping somewhere other than in a crib, (e.g. sofa), surface sharing (when an infant is sleeping on the same surface as another person) and bumper pads contribute to an unsafe sleep environment,” the report stated.

Sleeping on a couch raises the risk of suffocation and entrapment in the cushions.

“I don’t think most parents know that the sofa is a dangerous place,” Dr. Moon said. “They see it as a logical place to put the baby. If they are in the living room, and doing other things such as watching TV, or talking to other people, it feels like it makes sense for them to put the baby right there. In other instances, parents may come home from work, and they want to snuggle with the baby, put the baby on the couch, or have the infant on top of them. Then they fall asleep and the baby rolls off the parent’s chest and gets stuck between the parent and the sofa.”

Their study found that infants who died on sofas were likely to be found on their sides. The side position puts infants at risk for suffocation when the baby’s face is against a cushion or person.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of infant mortality after the first 30 days of life in the U.S., with the rate of 53.9 percent of deaths per 100,000 live births.

For more tips on how to reduce the risk of SIDS for babies and information on other SIDS studies led by Dr. Moon, visit our SIDS Resource page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Moon, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in SIDS and postneonatal infant mortality. She spent 21 years as a faculty member at Children’s National and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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