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GPs urged: warn parents off sleeping on sofa with babies

GPs should advise parents not to sleep with their babies on sofas as the practice can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, researchers warn.

Their study found that while the number of deaths from the syndrome halved between 1984 and 2003, the proportion of children who died after co-sleeping with parents rose from 12 to 50 per cent.

The proportion of deaths in deprived families also rose from 47 per cent to 74 per cent and the prevalence of maternal smoking rose from 57 per cent to 86 per cent.

Study leader Professor Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental phy-siology at the University of Bristol, said: 'Although the reasons for the rise in deaths when a parent sleeps with their infant on a sofa are unclear, we strongly recommend that parents avoid this sleeping environment.'

He added: 'The proportion seems to have increased partly because the Back to Sleep campaign led to fewer deaths in infants sleeping alone ­ rather than because of a rise in deaths of infants who bed-shared, and partly because of an increase in the number of deaths in infants sleeping with their parents on a sofa.'

The study, published online in The Lancet this week, analysed data from 369 con-secutive unexpected infant deaths, 300 of which were attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, over a 20-year period.

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