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New recommendations on infant safe sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics

By Gigi Chawla, MD, senior medical director of primary care at Children’s Minnesota

Sleep is especially critical for infants, as well as their parents. It’s not only a time for rest; it’s also crucial for a baby’s mood, growth and learning. So it’s important to do it right.

Because babies sleep so much during the first few months (newborns can sleep up to 16 or 17 hours a day), it’s vital to follow sleep best practices to ensure parents and caregivers are providing the safest-possible environment for their infant. Sleep-related deaths, such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or suffocation, account for approximately 3,500 infant deaths every year – but there are simple guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that can greatly reduce the risk of these unexpected incidents.

New this year, the AAP now recommends that babies share a room (“co-room”) with parents ideally for the first year of life, or at least until 6- months old. Co-rooming means the baby is sleeping in the same room as parents but in a separate, safe sleeping surface such as a crib or bassinet. Room-sharing during this critical period can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent. Infants should never co-sleep with parents on their bed, a sofa or any other soft surface. Breastfeeding and vaccinations can also provide added protection against SIDS. Parents should also protect their infants against exposure to alcohol, smoke or drugs.

Consistent with previous recommendations, babies should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.

Babies should sleep alone, on their back and in a crib.
Babies should sleep alone, on their back and in a crib

Gigi Chawla, MD
Gigi Chawla, MD

Alone

  • Although co-sleeping is a method many parents consider, the Minnesota Sudden Infant Death Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend babies co-sleep with any adult, for any reason. A sleeping adult cannot ensure that they have not accidentally pulled their bedding up and over the top of their baby or moved their pillow too close to their baby’s face, no matter how lightly they sleep.
  • Have your baby sleep in same room with you for the first 6-12 months — not in the same bed. If you bring your baby into your bed to breastfeed or comfort him, always place him back in his own crib when you are finished and before you go to sleep. A sleeping adult holding a baby also cannot ensure that the baby isn’t getting overheated with body heat or doesn’t have a kinked neck position with obstructed breathing, no matter how safe it seems.

Back

  • Place your baby on her back to sleep every time until he is 12 months old. The back position has reduced SIDS deaths nationwide by more than 50 percent.
  • As your baby grows, if she rolls over on her own during sleep that is OK — just ensure there is nothing in the baby’s sleep area other than a tight-fitting sheet on a firm mattress.

Crib (safe environment)

  • Babies should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or chair — alone or with anyone else.
  • Use a safety approved crib, bassinet or play yard, with a firm mattress, covered with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Never have loose materials in the crib, such as soft bedding, bumpers, blankets, or toys. These are all hazards to safe sleep. The only material in the crib or bassinet should be a tight, fitted sheet.
  • If visiting away from home, make sure your baby has a safe crib, bassinet or play yard for sleep time. Babies never should sleep on soft, porous surfaces such as an adult bed, sofa, blankets, pillows or makeshift bed on the floor.

Remember to tell all caregivers (babysitters, family members and child care providers) to follow safe sleep ABCs for every sleep time when caring for your baby. It’s possible that grandparents, family members or child care providers may have raised children using different sleep methods.


Ask Dr. Gigi on WCCO-TV: Tips for helping your baby sleep


For additional information and resources, please visit the Minnesota SID Center for additional links, articles and videos on safe sleeping habits for your baby. You can also check out this video on our Facebook page summarizing safe sleeping recommendations from the AAP.

Parents know good sleep is essential for healthy growth and functioning. If you’re searching sleep solutions for your child, visit Children’s Sleep Center in St. Paul.

Kristin Tesmer