Another big recommendation the academy made at that conference is infants should sleep in the same room as their parents for at least six months, preferably a year, but not in the same bed. Instead, they should sleep in a co-sleeper unit that is a separate sleeping space such as a bassinet or a crib. For a while, the academy has been warning against babies sleeping on soft surfaces like a chair, adult bed or couch. This new policy statement reiterates that and goes even further with the idea that babies should be in safe spaces in parent’s rooms not down the hall. About 3,500 babies a year die from a sleep-related death.
The recommendations for a safe sleep environment:
- Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
- Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
- Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by as much as 50 percent.
- Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.
Earlier this year, a study found that 93 percent of parents were putting their babies to sleep in unsafe places. The study video taped families and found that even if a baby started out in a safe place, they ended up in unsafe places as the night went on. Often, they were resting with parents. The other red flag was the amount of stuff parents had in the baby’s crib or bassinet.
Another new study also questioned the safety of swaddling blankets. You see, at some point, babies are able to wiggle out of the blanket, and the blanket could become stuck over their mouths or around their necks before they are strong enough to push it away or turn their heads. There’s also a danger of a baby getting too hot with a swaddling blanket.
Austin doctor Ari Brown of 411 Pediatrics has been at the conference, hearing the new recommendations. One of the things discussed there was not allowing babies to fall asleep in a car seat, swing, Rock ‘n Play, or other non-sleep-approved device. It might seem so easy to let the sleeping baby stay where they are asleep, but there is concern that very young infants might fall asleep in these devices in such a way that their head is collapsing on their neck, cutting off airflow. And very young babies can’t lift their necks to protect themselves.
While babies might crave the closeness, secure-feeling and movement the Rock ‘n Play and car seat gives them, they really just need a flat surface with nothing in it but a tight-fitting sheet.