HEALTH

Pediatricians Say Babies Should Sleep In Parents’ Room

New guidelines detail ways parents can prevent sleep-related deaths in infants, including sharing a bedroom for the first year of life

HEALTH
Photo Illustration: Vocativ
Oct 25, 2016 at 3:08 PM ET

Parents should sleep in the same room as their baby, but not in the same bed, for at least the first six months of its life, and ideally the whole first year, according to a policy update from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The new guidelines, which aim to prevent the approximate 3,500 infant sleep-related deaths in the U.S. each year, remain largely unchanged from the last update five years ago. The AAP continues to emphasize the importance of placing babies to sleep on their backs on a firm surface with a tight-fitting sheet and no soft bedding, like crib bumpers, blankets or stuffed animals. In other words, parents should create a sleep environment that is completely antithetical to their every cozy baby fantasy. Although, pacifiers not only have the OK, it’s actually recommended that parents offer them to babies at naptime and bedtime.

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As with the last AAP policy statement, the guidelines recommend room-sharing and advise against co-sleeping. This update is clearer, though, on age recommendations around sleeping in the same room: One year is ideal, but six months is the minimum recommendation.

The report also emphasizes that sleepy moms should forget about breastfeeding their kids in that brand-new, cushy nursery glider. “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,” said Lori Feldman-Winter, co-author of the AAP report, in a press release.

That might seem to contradict the policy against co-sleeping, but the statement advises that parents who feed in bed should remove all “pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.” And, as soon as they wake up, parents should move the baby to its own bed, according to the report.

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As much as these recommendations seem to ask a lot of parents — from sharing their room with an infant for a year to enduring the least amount of comfort possible during middle-of-the-night breastfeeding — the report also makes a point of cautioning parents against falling for commercial products that are advertised as ways to reduce sleep-related infant death. “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,” said lead author Rachel Moon. “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.”