Professor Ed Mitchell
SUDI Academic Expert
Auckland University

Ed Mitchell qualified at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London and has worked in the UK, Zambia and New Zealand.

He was the Cure Kids Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Auckland from 2001 to 2015 and is now a Professorial Research Fellow. He has published over 400 original papers, particularly on the epidemiology of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). He was awarded a Doctor of Science for his work on “The Epidemiology and Prevention of SIDS” by the University of London. He has received several awards for his landmark studies of SIDS and in 2009 was made a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Professor Ed Mitchell answers questions from the community.

When is it OK for our baby to sleep with his older sibling?

Only a few studies have examined this. One of the best is the Chicago Infant Mortality Study. This case-control study found that bed sharing with siblings (with or without the parents) raised the risk fivefold.

Although observational studies do not tell us the mechanism, all parents would have observed how deeply preschool children sleep, and it would not be surprising if the sibling did not respond to the struggles (arousal) of the baby if baby was overlaid.  
However, by 6 months of age 85% of SUDI cases have occurred and after 12 months SUDI is very rare. So for the safety of your baby do not let baby sleep with an older sibling until at least 12 months of age.

What about co-bedding twins? Certainly there are SUDI deaths that have occurred in a twin when sleeping together (co-bedding), however, this practice is quite common in New Zealand, so it is difficult to estimate whether co-bedding is a risk or not, but given the increased risk of SUDI associated with sleeping with older siblings, I would recommend caution.

  • bed sharing
  • siblings