Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is one of the top concerns of new parents. While SIDS rates have declined since the “Tummy to Play, Back to Sleep” campaign was launched almost 25 years ago, researchers still can’t pinpoint why more than 3,500 infants die of SIDS every year in the United States.
However, while the causes are not precisely defined, extensive research has been done about behavioral and environmental correlations with SIDS. To help new parents know best how to create a safe sleeping environment, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) released updated infant sleep guidelines in October 2016. Here’s what you need to know:
- “Tummy to Play, Back to Sleep” is still King: Every baby needs supervised tummy time daily and an infant should never be placed on her side or tummy to sleep. This guidance has dramatically reduced SIDS related deaths in the US since it was introduced in 1992.
- Babies Should Sleep in the Same Room As Mom and Dad. . . While most parents have newborns in their rooms anyway (to decrease the number of required steps during those 2 am feedings), the AAP codifies the recommendation that infants should sleep in the same room for at least six months. Ideally, the AAP recommends room sharing until the infant is 1 year old, since SIDS is still a risk until the first birthday.
- . . . But Not on the Same Sleeping Surface: Infants should always sleep on a firm surface that does not indent from their body weight. Adult beds are often soft, with bedding and pillows. In addition, bed-sharing increases the risk of accidental suffocation if a parent rolls over the child in his sleep.
- Swaddling is Okay, But Loose Bedding is Not: a snug swaddle is fine (not so tight that it is difficult for the baby to breathe or move her hips), but loose pillows, blankets, clothing, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, etc. are not.
- Avoid Overheating: Watch for signs of overheating; infants should only have on one more layer of clothing than parents.
- Couches and Soft Chairs Are Not Okay For Sleep: The soft surface is dangerous for babies. The risk is increased if a sleepy parent is also on the sofa and at risk of falling asleep.
- Parents Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS: A number of behavioral factors have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. Breastfed babies are less likely to die of SIDS. (AAP recommends exclusive breast milk until 6 months of age.) Infants in a smoke-free, drug-free environment are less likely to die of SIDS. Pacifiers also decrease the risk of SIDS.
- There’s A Lot That is Still Unknown: Despite all this research, there is still not a precise cause of SIDS. Nothing on the market has been proven to prevent SIDS and a lot of products are still untested.
Visit healthychildren.org for more information about safe sleeping guidelines.