Sharing a Room With an Infant can Help Guard Against SIDS

Sharing a Room With an Infant can Help Guard Against SIDS
Pregnancy/Being a Mom

In a policy statement released October 24, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants should sleep in the same room as parents to lower the risk of sleep-related deaths. [1]

The group, which offers guidance on child-rearing, says that newborns should be placed to sleep in their parents’ bedroom on a separate, firm surface, such as a crib or bassinet, for at least the first 6 months of life and, ideally, the first full year.

This, the academy says, lowers risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by as much as 50%.

Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report, says:

“A baby that is within reach of their mother may have more comfort, or physical stimulation form being in an environment with another person,” said Winter, adding that mothers being near their babies also facilitates breastfeeding, which in itself has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by 70%.

Breastfeeding protects against many adverse outcomes.”

In the statement, the AAP also stresses that parents should never place infants on a soft surface like a couch or cushioned chair, nor should a child be put to bed with any blankets, pillows, or soft toys. [1] [2]

Infants should not share a bed with parents or rest on soft bedding intended for adults. [2]

Winters says:

“The whole phenomenon of SIDS implies that we don’t know 100% what is responsible for the death, but we have theories.”

One of the theories behind SIDS is that an infant’s brain may not be developed enough to regulate respiration combined with certain environmental factors, like soft furnishings and toys that can obstruct breathing and possibly cause a child to asphyxiate. Pillows, sheets, and blankets can also cause an infant to become overheated.

It’s possible, too, that some infants may be more vulnerable to SIDS due to genetics or physical traits.

While the academy stressed that infants should not sleep in the same bed as parents, the doctors do, however, recommend that nursing mothers feed the baby in bed. [3]

Winters says:

“Babies should be brought to bed for feeding, but following feeding they should be returned to a separate sleep surface.”

The physicians’ group also recommends the following:

  • Always place an infant to sleep on his or her back
  • Avoid exposing the baby to smoke, alcohol, or illicit drugs
  • Never use home monitors or other devices, such as wedges or positioners, to reduce the risk of SIDS
Source: Consumer Health Digest

In August, the AAP released a study showing that an overwhelming number of children are sleeping in an unsafe environment which can result in SIDS. In the study, parents allowed their child to be recorded when sleeping at the 1-month mark of his or her life, at the 3-month mark, and again at the 6-month mark.

The recorded footage revealed that a shocking 93% of parents were placing loose items in the baby’s crib, including stuffed animals, pillows, bedding, and bumper pads.

Additionally, the study showed that 33% of babies were not placed in the correct position for sleep.

The History of SIDS

Source: NPR

About 3,500 infants die each year of sleep-related causes, including SIDS, accidental suffocation, and strangulation, according to the AAP. [1]

Babies are most at-risk for SIDS for the first 1-4 months of life, though soft bedding, which can lead to accidental strangulation, remains a threat to infants older than 4 months. Some 90% of SIDS cases occur during a baby’s first year of life. [2]

Winters says:

“Babies should share that sleep environment for up to one year, because there is a slight risk of SIDS that persists.”

The number of SIDS cases began falling in the 1990’s, thanks to increased awareness efforts, including safe sleep campaigns. However, rates have since plateaued. The AAP hopes the new recommendations will send SIDS deaths on a downward trend again.

As for why infants are safer sleeping in parents’ bedrooms, well… There is no exact science explaining why it works. It could just be the result of parenting instincts. Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin-based pediatrician and author of the Baby411 book series, who was not involved with the report, explains:

“People don’t know quite why the risk is lowered. I might chalk it up to a parent’s 6th sense when a baby is nearby and making erratic noises or not that helps save these babies.”

Other experts say it’s easier to monitor a baby when nearby.


[1] USA Today

[2] CNN

[3] HealthDay