The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement saying babies should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents for at least the first six months of life and ideally for 12 months.
The guideline, which states babies should still sleep on their own separate surface such as a crib or bassinet, is based on the latest evidence and aims to decrease the risk of sleep-related deaths, according to an AAP press release.
Room-sharing decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, by as much as 50 percent, the organization reports.
Babies should never sleep on a sofa, armchair or other soft surface, the AAP says. The sleep safety policy update – the first since 2011 – and report was published in the November 2016 issue of Pediatrics. It also includes evidence supporting skin-to-skin care for newborns, recommendations on the use of bedside sleepers and more information on creating a safe sleep environment.
“We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep,” says lead report author Dr. Rachel Moon, M.D., FAAP. “Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous.”
Around 3,500 infants die each year in the U.S. from sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, ill-defined deaths and accidental suffocation and strangulation, the AAP reports.
“The number of infant deaths initially decreased in the 1990s after a national safe sleep campaign, but has plateaued in recent years,” the press release states.
The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for safe sleep include:
- Baby should be placed on his back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
- Don’t use soft bedding such as crib bumpers, blankets, pillows or toys. “The crib should be bare,” the AAP states.
- Babies should share a bedroom with their parents – but not be on the same sleeping surface – for the first 12 months of life or at least six months.
- Avoid baby being exposed to smoke, alcohol or illicit drugs.
- Skin-to-skin care is recommended for at least an hour immediately after baby’s birth or as soon as the mother is stable and awake. This recommendation applies regardless of baby’s feeding or delivery method.
Recommendations from the AAP also include breastfeeding as a protective measure against SIDS – but parents should always put baby back to bed rather than falling asleep together on a soft surface.
“If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair,” says report co-author and SIDS Task Force member Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., FAAP, in the press release. “If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”
Parents should also offer a pacifier for naps and bedtime, stay up to date on baby’s vaccines and avoid the use of sleep positioners and other items marketed to prevent SIDS.
“We want to share this information in a way that doesn’t scare parents but helps to explain the real risks posed by an unsafe sleep environment,” Moon says in the release. “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.”
This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.