Getting a crying infant back to sleep can be an immense relief for exhausted parents. But doing so the right way can save a baby's life.
An estimated 3,500 infants die every year from unexplained deaths, including cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and medical experts believe that good sleeping habits for infants can help save lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines on Monday on safe sleeping habits for parents and infants to help decrease the chances of SIDS.
Here are the key facts to know.
Sleep in the Same Room, But Not in the Same Bed
The AAP still advises parents to keep their infants in the same bedroom, but now recommends that infants should stay there for at least 6 months, and ideally one year. This can lower the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent, according to the AAP.
Just be sure the baby has their own crib so that there is no chance of suffocation or impaired breathing.
However, Stay on the Bed If You're Tired and Feeding Your Baby
Tired parents up for a late-night feeding might think that moving to the couch is safer, but the AAP warns a couch is a more dangerous surface if a parent falls asleep during the feeding. While the AAP does not advise having the infant sleep in the same bed as the parent, it acknowledges that sleepy parents may unintentionally fall asleep during feeding and that a bed is safer compared to the soft cushions on a couch that can block a baby's breathing.
"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," Dr. Rachel Moon, lead author of the report, said in a statement. "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."
Avoid Putting Pillows, Blankets or Toys in the Crib
An infant's crib should not contain anything that could block their breathing, meaning that blankets, pillows and other bed items should be avoided, according to the AAP. The safest option is to put a baby to sleep on their back on top of a tight-fitting sheet on a firm mattress, according to the report.
"There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant's breathing or cause overheating," Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report, said in a statement.
A full list of recommendations can be found here.