It’s important to be aware of how alcohol can affect your decision-making and drowsiness, especially when it comes to baby’s sleep environment.
It is granted that excessive drinking whilst caring for an infant is irresponsible. However, alcohol consumption, even a small amount of unit could impair judgement. This may be particularly relevant if baby is bed-sharing (planned or more dangerously unplanned)
Antenatal use of alcohol and drugs can contribute to premature birth and low birth weight. These factors themselves carry increased risk of SUDI (NHS). Whilst the developing fetus is greatly affected by maternal alcohol misuse that is habitual, it is known that binge drinking is harmful to the fetus. Some studies have shown that babies exposed to alcohol during pregnancy have a reduced response when in a situation that challenges their breathing.
Parents and caregivers under the influence of any alcohol are less able to judge risk factors. Shared sleeping environments are especially dangerous when alcohol is involved.
The effect of drugs can have a similar effect. Illegal drugs aside, even use of prescription drugs can have an effect on decision-making and your own sleeping patterns. Drug misuse may often involve a combination of different substances which compound the increased risks.
If you are taking any drugs (illicit or prescribed) that may make you feel drowsy it’s important to be aware of this if baby is around. Several studies have shown increased risk to babies when certain drugs have been used during pregnancy; cannabis, methadone, heroin and cocaine have all shown increased risk of SUDI
It is important to point out that whist antenatal substance use can make babies more vulnerable to SUDI, when these factors exist when parent’s and caregivers are caring for a baby, their sleep environment may be less than ideal.
If a baby sleeps in their own cot, bedding may not be used appropriately or the baby may not be checked as it would normally be if parents are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Baby may get into an unsafe position and this not be noticed.
If parents are sharing a sleep space with a baby, they may not be aware of where the baby is sleeping and whether any bedding is covering baby or whether baby has rolled into any bedding. The parents themselves may not be aware that they have rolled onto baby.
Accidental suffocation deaths can happen when alcohol and drugs are involved.
Evidence For Our Messages On Alcohol And Drug Use
An analysis of (case-controlled) studies found a substantial increase in SIDS when mother consumed two or more Units of alcohol.
Mother having drunk 2 or more Units of alcohol, bed sharing with a:
Two week old baby – 89.7 times more likely
Ten week old baby – 38.7 times more likely
20 week old baby – 13.5 times more likely
The same study also showed increased risks associated with mothers use of illegal drugs (11x more likely) and ‘inestimably large when bed sharing’.