Putting together the crib before your baby arrives? Better set it up in
your bedroom--in a major announcement, the American Academy of Pediatrics
now recommends that infants should sleep in the same room as their parents
for at least the first six months of life, and ideally for up to a year.
"The new guideline is part of a sleep safety policy to prevent sudden
infant death syndrome, or SIDS, as well as other sleep-related deaths
such as strangulation or suffocation," says
Wilfredo Alejo, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. There are 3,500 of those deaths each year in America, and research estimates
that infants and parents sharing a room can cut the risk of SIDS by about
half. "The reasons for that aren't entirely clear, but it's
thought that parents being so near to their infants allows them to keep
a closer eye on the babies, and the parents can 'sense' a problem,"
Dr. Alejo says.
But Dr. Alejo emphasizes that room sharing must be done in a certain way
to be effective and safe. "The academy's new policy says infants
are safest sleeping in a crib or bassinet--and not sleeping in the parents'
bed. That's because the ideal safe sleep environment for a young infant
is a flat surface covered in a snug, fitted sheet. There should be no
pillows, toys, blankets or other objects that could impede the baby's
breathing. The normal bedding adults use simply isn't safe for babies."
Dr. Alejo adds that babies should continue to be placed on their backs
to sleep, as they may not have the ability to turn their head if their
breathing becomes blocked while laying on the stomach or side. Most SIDS
cases occur before the age of 6 months, which is why the academy recommends
babies share their parents' room for at least that long.
There are other components to the guidelines, which were last changed in
2011. The update, which incorporates previous recommendations along with
the policy on room sharing, was issued because while SIDS deaths have
gone down since the 1992 recommendation to put babies to sleep on their
backs, the number of other sleep-related deaths have increased. The new
policy also states:
- Parents should avoid putting babies to sleep on soft surfaces such as couches
or armchairs. "These pose a safety hazard, as the baby could suffocate
or get stuck between cushions," Dr. Alejo says.
- Breastfeeding is encouraged , as studies have suggested that breast milk
can reduce the risk of SIDS by 70 percent. "Women should breast feed
in bed, as that's considered safer than couches or armchairs in case
the mother falls asleep," Dr. Alejo says. "However, pillows,
blankets and other objects should be moved out of the way before feeding
starts. And If the crib is nearby the parents' bed, the mom can nurse
in her bed and then put the baby back in the crib afterward.”
- Babies should sleep in a smoke-free environment.
- SIDS prevention devices, such as special baby positioners, should be avoided.
"These haven't been proven to prevent SIDS, and can in fact cause
the baby to suffocate if he moves and gets his nose or mouth trapped in
the positioner," Dr. Alejo says. "Again, you want nothing in
the crib except your baby sleeping on the mattress."
- During the day, when babies are awake, let them spend time laying on their
bellies. "This will help them develop and strengthen the muscles
they need to turn their heads, which can help them avoid the breathing
problems associated with sleep-related deaths," Dr. Alejo says. "This
tummy time should always be supervised."
Learn more about
Dr. Alejo. Learn more about
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.