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Deaths and near deaths of healthy newborn infants while bed sharing on maternity wards




Our aim was to evaluate programs promoting bed sharing on maternity wards and determining ways to reduce these risks.

Study Design:

Members of the National Association of Medical Examiners were contacted requesting information on deaths of healthy infants while bed sharing on maternity wards.


Fifteen deaths and three near deaths are reported. One or more factors that increase the risk of bed sharing were present in all cases. Accidental suffocation was deemed the most likely cause of these incidents.


Cases of infant deaths and near deaths while bed sharing on maternity wards are under reported. The ‘Baby Friendly’ (BF) initiative in maternity hospitals to promote breastfeeding is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The BF initiative encourages prolonged skin-to-skin contact and bed sharing. Education of mothers and more efficient monitoring should significantly reduce the risk of maternity ward bed sharing.

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This study was funded by The Madison Foundation. Clifford C. Nelson, MD, for helpful suggestions as well as the medical examiners and infants' families for providing information, and Kathleen Harris for expert assistance in manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to B T Thach.

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Thach, B. Deaths and near deaths of healthy newborn infants while bed sharing on maternity wards. J Perinatol 34, 275–279 (2014).

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  • infant deaths
  • skin-to-skin
  • bed sharing
  • maternity wards

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