Babies who sleep in their parents' bed are five times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a new study has found.
Research published in the prestigious British Medical Journal suggests bacteria in the bed could be responsible for SIDS.
The study found that nearly 88 per cent of SIDS deaths that occurred when the baby was in the parents' bed would not have happened if the baby was in its own bed.
The risk was far higher for babies less than three months old, even when neither parent smoked and the mother did not drink or take drugs (although smoking, drinking and drug-taking are known to dramatically increase risk of SIDS).
The researchers hope the findings will be used to launch a major awareness campaign to educate parents of the dangers of co-sleeping.
"Our findings suggest that professionals and the literature should take a more definite stand against bed sharing, especially for babies under three months," the study authors wrote.
"If parents were made aware of the risks of sleeping with their baby, and room sharing were promoted, a substantial further reduction in SIDS rates could be achieved."
According to this and other research, the safest place for babies to sleep is in their own bed in the same room as their parents.