Safe Sleep Recommendations reduce risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths

According to new safe sleep recommendations, infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents – but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, and never on a couch, armchair or soft surface — to decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths, according to new safe sleep recommendations and guidelines released by the American Academy of PediatricsIn fact, room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. Breastfeeding is also recommended as adding protection against SIDS. After feeding, the AAP encourages parents to move the baby to his or her separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom. “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, MD, FAAP, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report. “As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed,” she said. “There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.” This new information is based on more than 60 studies involving infants up to one -year old.  The updated policy statement, entitled “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleep Environment,” can be found here. A video emphasizing the importance of following safe sleep guidelines can be found below.

New AAP Safe Infant Sleep guidelines added for 2016 include the following:

  • Infants should share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS as much as 50 percent.
  • An infant should be placed on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. The crib should be otherwise bare.
  • Avoid soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. While infants are at heightened risk for SIDS between the ages of 1 and 4 months, new evidence shows that soft bedding continues to pose hazards for babies at age 4 months and older.
  • Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. If at all possible, mothers should breastfeed exclusively or feed with expressed milk for at least 6 months.
  • Skin-to-skin care is recommended for all mothers and newborns, immediately following birth, for at least an hour, provided that the mother is awake and medically stable.
  • Home monitors or commercial devices, including wedges or positioners, marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS should not be used. Similarly, while there are now Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards for bedside sleepers, and no safety standards for in-bed sleepers, the AAP cannot make a definitive recommendation for or against either product.
  • Infants should never be left to sleep on sofas, armchairs or in sitting devices.

In addition to new guidelines, the AAP maintains the following recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation:

  • Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bed time as soon as breastfeeding is established.
  • Give baby supervised, awake tummy time daily to help strengthen neck, arm and shoulders muscles.

The AAP recommends that doctors have open and nonjudgmental conversations with families about their sleep practices. Media outlets and advertisers may also play a role in educating parents by following safe sleep recommendations when presenting images and messages to the public. “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 Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP, lead author of the report and Medical Director at First Candle.  “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.” First Candle works tirelessly to educate parents and caregivers on ways to lower the risk of SIDS, support research and provide bereavement support to families who have experienced a loss.