Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), along with other sleep-related infant deaths, claims the lives of about 3,500 babies each year. SIDS is particularly terrifying for parents because it's unpredictable and can strike babies that appear healthy. By its nature, it really has no concrete definition—it's often diagnosed when all other causes have been ruled out, after a sudden and unexpected death of a child under one year of age.
Yeah, totally scary.
Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics is determined to help prevent SIDS. Continual research has led to knowledge of a few common practices that may either increase or lessen the risk for our babies. And their newest set of recommendations may just surprise some veteran parents.
One of the more notable things the AAP is now recommending is for parents to practice "room sharing," as opposed to putting their baby to sleep in a separate room, like that fancy nursery everyone sweated over. But for how long? At least six months—and ideally for an entire year.
Now before you misunderstand, this doesn't mean they're suggesting parents co-sleep with their babies in the same bed. Instead, they say a standard crib within arm's reach is the best bet.
While this recommendation has actually been in place for a number of years (it was on the list in 2011), the ideal length of time is a new add-on with this policy. According to the AAP, research has shown that this time frame tends to have the most positive impact in reducing the risk of SIDS.
So while they say that room sharing is ideal, bed sharing definitely isn't. The AAP does acknowledge that parents do sometimes fall asleep with their babies in their bed. They don't say that's an OK thing to do, aside from saying that it's less hazardous to accidentally fall asleep with your baby in your bed than on a couch or in an armchair.
In other words, if you're two months postpartum and accidentally doze off while nursing your infant after being up for four hours in the middle of the night, well, it's not like you fell asleep with him on the couch.
They also provide a few definite don'ts, such as:
* Never sleep with your baby on your couch or armchair
* Don't bed share with a baby who is less than 4 months old
* Don't bed share if Mom smoked during pregnancy or one parent in bed is still a smoker
* Don't bed share if one person in bed has been impaired by drugs or alcohol
* Don't let your baby bed share with anyone else who is not you or the baby's other parent
* Don't bed share if you use soft blankets or pillows
While the AAP intends to help families avoid the horror of SIDS, they'll probably never, ever recommend bed sharing. This also means they probably won't work on providing education that can help make it safer, aside from outlining the "never do's" above, which is a shame since many families bed share despite the recommendations against it.
Here are some other suggestions from the AAP to reduce the risk of SIDS:
* Put babies to sleep on their backs every time from birth until 1 year of age
* Use a firm sleep surface in Baby's crib
* Breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months
* Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from Baby's sleep area
* Consider a pacifier for naptime and bedtime
* Avoid smoke exposure during pregnancy and after birth
* Avoid drugs and alcohol during pregnancy and after birth
* Avoid overheating and head covering in infants
* Obtain regular prenatal care before Baby's birth
* Immunize your baby on the recommended schedule
* Avoid the use of commercial devices that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS
* Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS
* Engage your baby in awake, supervised tummy time
* There is no evidence to recommend swaddling as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS