It doesn’t seem to be a simple issue of geography: when someone living in the West has imported their cultural practices from elsewhere, they bring the lower SIDS risk with them too. Families of Pakistani origin living in the UK, for example, have a lower SIDS risk than white British families – despite mothers commonly sharing a bed with their baby.
“It’s the cultural practices that are associated with the lower SIDS,” says Helen Ball, a professor of anthropology at the University of Durham and director of the university’s Parent-Infant Sleep Lab. Mothers of Pakistani-origin in Bradford have higher rates of breastfeeding and are less likely to smoke, drink, and put their baby to sleep in a separate room – all factors that are known to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Das says he’d like to see bedsharing encouraged but “with a caution note that those persons who are bedsharing should not smoke, should not take alcohol, should not be very obese”. UK SIDS-prevention charity The Lullaby Trust has advice for parents who want to make their bed a safe sleep surface for their baby.
Just as bedsharing keeps babies close during the night, babywearing provides a way to keep them close in the day while parents run errands or work around the house. Rather than a new trend, carrying children in a sling is something humans have done for as long as we’ve been around. It was only when prams became popular