Sharing a bed with an adult or another child increases an infant's risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS or other sleep-related causes, officials at the National Institutes of Health said.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions also found advice from physicians could significantly reduce the potentially life threatening practice.
Infant caregivers who perceived physicians' attitude as against sharing a bed were about 34 percent less likely to report an infant usually shared a bed than were caregivers who received no advice, the report found.
Based on responses from nearly 20,000 caregivers, the researchers reported the proportion of infants sharing a bed with another person rose from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent over the 17-year period of the study. The majority of bed sharing -- 85 percent -- was with parents.
To reduce infants' risk of sleep-related deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, as caregivers.
Cribs, portable cribs bassinets, or playpens meet safety standards can be placed next to the caregiver's bed. Infants should not be placed to sleep on an adult bed at any time, NIH officials emphasized.
The findings were published in JAMA Pediatrics.