Oct 24, 2016 12:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

Parents of newborn infants should not only prepare for a new addition to their family—but a new roommate as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending babies sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months of life, and optimally up to a year, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

“It makes a lot of sense,” says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health. “Having your baby in the same room will make it easier to monitor them and alert you to any signs of distress.”

However, while parents and babies should share a room, they should not share a bed. Instead, babies should be placed in a separate sleeping space like a crib or bassinet. The sleeping space should be free of any soft bedding including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, and soft toys.

“By putting a baby in a bassinet, you reduce the risk you may accidentally roll on top of them,” says Gellner. “Also, by making sure their crib is relatively bare, you reduce the risk of accidental suffocation.”

If you are concerned about your baby being cold without blankets in the crib, try swaddling your baby in a blanket designed for swaddling—look for ones with Velcro to keep your baby snug—or even better, put them in a sleep sack. Be careful not to overheat your baby though. There are studies that suggest being too warm could increase SIDS risk. “Put your baby in layers you can remove if they get hot,” says Gellner. “Also, know if a room is a comfortable temperature for you, it probably is a comfortable temperature for your baby.”

An estimated 3,500 babies die of SIDS each year. That number is dramatically lower than in the 1990s when the first safe sleep guidelines were released with an emphasis on placing infants to sleep on their backs. That emphasis is still a part of the latest recommendations. “Tummy time is great for helping with development when an infant is awake,” says Gellner. “However, when they are asleep it can pose a risk parents don’t want to take.”

SIDS risk is highest between one and six months, but there are studies showing parents shouldn’t drop their guard too soon. It may be tempting to put an older infant down for a nap on their stomach or let them doze on a soft couch when you are not right by their side, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. “This is your child and their safety should be your main consideration,” says Gellner.

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