If you’re the parent of a newborn, you might be tempted to move your baby’s crib or bassinet into your bedroom. At times it may seem silly going back and forth from your bedroom to your baby’s for night feedings or comforting.
A policy statement recently issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says moving your child into your bedroom — but not your bed — is a smart move.
The recommendations call for infants to share their parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life, based on the latest scientific evidence.
Infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents — but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet. Put your baby down to sleep on his or her back. And your baby should never sleep on a couch, armchair or soft surface, the new statement says.
Additional recommendations to avoid sudden infant death include keeping your baby away from tobacco smoke; breastfeeding your baby; getting routine recommended immunizations; and giving your baby a pacifier once breastfeeding is established.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the name given to the sudden and unexplained death of a healthy baby who is put down to sleep and later found dead with no obvious cause. It is the leading cause of death in babies between one month and 12 months of age.
The recommendation is aimed at reducing the number of sudden deaths of infants that sometimes occur within the first months of life, says birthing specialist Kitty Russ, RNC, MSN, MSHA. When a newborn sleeps in the parents’ room, Mom or Dad are better able to react to the baby immediately if he or she is in distress.
The age at which a baby is at less risk for sudden unexplained death varies based on the gestational age of the baby, Ms. Russ says. Babies who are born premature are at risk for a longer period of time than babies who are born at full term.
“Infants don’t have as much neck control and once they get past the six month mark they’re better able to move,” Ms. Russ says. “Once infants can roll over, we find a decrease in sleep-related deaths.”
Many times, sudden unexplained infant death is due to unsafe sleeping environments, Ms. Russ says.
The most important thing that parents can do to minimize the risk of sudden infant death is to make sure their baby has a safe sleep environment, which includes:
Ms. Russ cautions parents against holding their babies to get them to sleep even if they are crying. It’s especially dangerous for parents to fall asleep while holding a baby, as the baby can easily suffocate.
“We know when parents get home in their own environment, they’re just so exhausted and frustrated and tired, and babies get fussy. But we also know that we don’t see babies dying from crying,” Ms. Russ says. “We see babies dying from sleep surfaces that aren’t safe because they are too soft.”
Ms. Russ encourages parents to follow the safe sleep guidelines every time, even if it seems difficult.
“Unfortunately, it only takes one time for an accident to happen that can take the life of a child,” she says.