Letter on Bed Deaths

To U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission


September 30, 1999                   Ann Brown
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Information and Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20207

Dear Ann Brown,

Your warning against placing infants in adult beds is highly erroneous, irresponsible, and will lead to increases in the number of U.S. infant deaths each year.

The truth is seen around the world that breastfeeding and cosleeping infants with non-smoking parents have, by far, the lowest SIDS rates. When an adult’s natural protectiveness is compromised by alcohol or drugs, when an adult is breathing out air from smoke-filled lungs during the night, or when there is great obesity, there is a danger with cosleeping. There is also a danger when an infant is neurologically compromised in certain ways. When hundreds of infant deaths were occurring due to unsafe cribs, the answer was not to take babies out of cribs, but to make them safer. W. Watson reported in The Journal of Paediatric Child Health in June of 1993 that in Australia, 19% of all injuries in the first year of life were attributable to nursery furniture. The suggested answer was to provide safety information to parents as well as to manufacturers, not to end the use of strollers, high chairs, cribs, and changing tables. The same should be true for parental beds. There are no safe guardrails, headboard, or other modifications to “family” beds available on the markets. Just as with cribs and other infant hazards, accurate education and good safety equipment should be available. Parents should be made aware of the dangers of wedging, of smoking, and of waterbeds.

Newsweek reported in their September 22, 1997 issue that hundreds of cases of SIDS may in fact be infanticide. This has been true throughout recorded history. This advent has lead at times in history to the outlawing of cosleeping, leading likely to greater numbers of non-homicidal infant deaths from reduced breastfeeding, deeper sleep states (a predominant factor in SIDS), and overchilling in winters, while homicidal deaths will only alter in character. Out of 8,000 SIDS cases per year, many of those who died of apnea alone in cribs would have been diagnosed as suffocated had they been found in their parents’ bed.

Once two large factors of SIDS had been removed from statistics, that of prone sleeping (which is entirely unnatural in the cosleeping, breastfeeding infant), and that of sleeping with a smoking parent, the truth about cosleeping and breastfeeding became quite apparent. A large New Zealand investigation found that sharing a room with a non-smoking adult reduced the risk of SIDS by 81%.1 Researchers in England uncovered a tripled risk of SIDS for bottle-fed babies,2 as did a University of California study,3 and a German study suggested nearly 8 times the risk for babies who are not breastfed.4 Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding, and visa versa. The formula industry subtly but persistently works to reduce the public opinion of breastfeeding and encourage formula feeding, while bottle-fed babies suffer twice the number of infant deaths overall. Their push to educate pediatricians about the “dangers” of cosleeping is only one part of their great campaigns waged over the 20th century to increase formula sales.

Many studies have confirmed that bedsharing promotes breastfeeding and that sleeping next to mother helps to regulate the infant’s heart rate and breathing. The parent lying next to their infant is also immediately aware of any kind of distress the infant may be having, surely reducing countless deaths. Another key factor is that victims of SIDS spend longer intervals in deeper sleep states and have very few arousal periods during the night5 – like those who are not stimulated by frequent nursing and maternal presence during the night, and those exhausted due to long crying bouts from abandonment in their cribs. English researchers have also revealed that prolonged periods of lone quiet sleep are a factor in SIDS.6

Epidemiological studies reveal that SIDS is lowest in U.S. subpopulations, such as Asian and Mexican, and other cultures worldwide where cosleeping and breastfeeding are practiced more frequently. Where bottle-feeding is highest, as with the African American population, so is SIDS, while their cosleeping, breastfeeding counterparts in African nations enjoy greatly lower rates of such deaths.

One more factor is that 1,000 children die in the U.S. each year from home fires and other disasters, mostly at night. It is likely that most of these died because they were away from their parents in another part of the house, where they could not be easily retrieved.

Making blanket recommendations to U.S. parents to remove infants from their natural place in their parents’ bed will certainly lead to great increases in the number of SIDS deaths in our nation. Educating parents about water beds, soft bedding, mattress wedging, smoking, drinking, and drugs will make a reduction in the already very tiny number of infants dying due to suffocation in their parents’ beds.

My assertions in this letter are supported by many more medical and science journal references. I can make these available upon request. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.



Linda Folden Palmer, D.C.


1. R.K. Scragg et al., “Infant room-sharing and prone sleep position in sudden infant death syndrome. New Zealand Cot Death Study Group,” Lancet 347, no. 8993 (Jan 1996).
2. R.E. Gilbert et al., “Bottle feeding and the sudden infant death syndrome,” BMJ 310, no. 6972 (Jan 14, 1995).
3. H.S. Klonoff-Cohen et al., “The effect of passive smoking and tobacco exposure through breast milk on sudden infant death syndrome,” JAMA 273, no. 10 (Mar 1995).
4. J. Schellscheidt et al., “Epidemiological features of sudden infant death after a German intervention campaign in 1992,” Eur J Pediatr 156, no. 8 (Aug 1997).
5. R.M. Harper et al., “Periodicity of sleep states is altered in infants at risk for the sudden infant death syndrome,” Science 213, no. 4511 (Aug 28, 1981).
6. M. Gantley et al., “Maternal sleep and arousals during bedsharing with infants,” Sleep 20, no. 2 (Feb 1997).


Linda Folden Palmer, DC
San Diego, California

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