The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced at its annual conference two weeks ago an update to its policy for reducing the risk of sleep-related infant deaths (SIDS). While the association continues to recommend babies sleep on their backs, it announced a surprising new guideline:
Parents and their new baby should share a bedroom for at least six months, and ideally up to one year.
I used to recommend putting a baby in his or her own crib in their own room, and the sooner the better. Babies make a lot of noise, often depriving parents of a good night’s sleep with the baby in their room. I also felt that babies can become trained night criers when they are in their parents’ room. Babies start to have separation anxiety at around six months of age, so I would advise parents to put their baby in his own room sooner than that.
However, these new AAP recommendations about infant sleep and SIDS could likely change most pediatricians’ advice.
The AAP now recommends that parents set up a portable crib, bassinet or playpen close to their bed. In my opinion, room-sharing is safer than bed-sharing. While it may seem easier to feed and comfort a baby in your bed, it is important for the parent to place the baby back in his or her own sleeping space before you turn in.
The AAP report also cautions parents about the risks of using unproven baby sleep techniques, such as wedges and positioners. In my practice, I advise parents to make the baby’s sleeping space as restful and comfortable as possible:
- Make sure the sleep surface is firm, with a tight-fitting firm mattress and fitted sheet designed for that product.
- No pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskin, blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or bumper pads in the baby’s sleep space.
- Dress the baby in infant sleep clothing, such as a wearable blanket, but only cover the baby in one more layer of clothing than you are wearing.
- It is fine to swaddle your baby, but not too tight. You do not want to make it hard for the baby to breathe or move his hips. Once your baby starts trying to roll over, discontinue swaddling.
Other precautions I recommend for a baby’s safe sleep include never placing a baby on a sofa or armchair. Also, a pacifier helps reduce the risk of SIDS – even if it falls out after the baby is asleep! We, physicians, aren’t quite sure scientifically why this mechanism works, but it does. We also continue to encourage breastfeeding, immunizations and avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drug use around babies.
I still recommend nighttime routines for a baby, such as a short bath, followed by lotion and pajamas, playing lullaby music, breastfeeding, and reading three books. Parents should try to end with the same book every night and place their baby in his or her crib.
Every parent should talk to their pediatrician about what’s right and recommended for their baby to help prevent SIDS and promote safe sleep.
Nighty-night and sweet dreams for all of you.