Baby sleeping safely
Family Health

Avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: The Importance of Safe Sleep

Any parent who's had a new baby knows it takes a while to adjust to life with your tiny new family member. In everything from feeding to sleeping, there's a very real learning curve. Infant sleep is a common source of questions: What's normal? What bad habits should you avoid? And most importantly, how do you make sure your baby is sleeping safely?

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recently released new recommendations for safe infant sleep and how to avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). These guidelines can help you and your family keep your newborn safe.

New Major Recommendation for Safe Sleep

You probably already know to lay your baby down for sleep on his or her back, but the AAP has outlined some new best practices that can help you feel more confident when you put your infant to bed.

One major update is the recommendation that babies should sleep in their parents' room for the first six months of life -- ideally, for the entire first year. Often, parents keep their babies in their room for the first few months or so, then transition them to a nursery, so this protocol might seem different from what you're used to. Pediatricians don't recommend that babies actually sleep in their parents' bed, of course, but on a separate, flat surface, such as a crib or a bassinet.

Babies should never sleep in an adult's bed or with an adult on a couch, a recliner or another soft surface. Your newborn should sleep alone, in his or her own individual sleeping area. The AAP also recommends keeping stuffed animals and toys out of the sleeping area.

Recap & More Tips

  1. Pediatricians continue to recommend that infants under a year old sleep on their backs -- side sleeping isn't the best choice for newborns.
  2. Babies should sleep in their parents' room for the first six months of life -- ideally, for the entire first year.
  3. Never put your baby in bed with you while you sleep. SIDS is higher in homes where babies co-sleep with their parents.
  4. Babies should be covered only with a sleep sack or swaddle, if anything. Don't cover your newborn with a heavy blanket or add any pillows into their sleeping area.
  5. Breastfeeding is another step you can take to reduce the risk of SIDS. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that infants who were breastfed were approximately 50 percent less likely to suffer from SIDS than non-breastfed babies.
  6. Smoking, alcohol, and drug use can also increase the risk of SIDS, both during pregnancy and afterwards, so be sure to avoid these behaviors around your child.

If you have further questions about safe sleep for your baby and how to avoid sudden infant death syndrome, be sure to ask your pediatrician or family health care provider.

Posted in Family Health

Carrie Murphy is a freelance writer and certified birth doula living in New Mexico. She writes about reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth, and lifestyle topics. Carrie's work has been published in or on ELLE, Glamour, Women's Health, US Catholic and other local and national publications.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.