New safe sleep recommendations to prevent SIDS, other infant deaths

Where your infant sleeps could affect the risk of a horrible sleep-related death, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Monday, the group released its first new policy statement on the all-important subject in five years.

Doctors say, "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."

They recommend infants "share their parents' bedroom for at least the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life, based on the latest evidence."

In fact, room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

Breastfeeding is recommended as added protection against SIDS. Then, after feeding, the AAP encourages parents to move the baby to his or her separate sleeping space.

Lead author Dr. Rachel Moon said she recognizes new parents may be overwhelmed, so simple guidance is needed.

She added, "Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous."

Also new in the report: Skin-to-skin care is recommended, regardless of feeding or delivery method, immediately following birth for at least an hour as soon as the mother is medically stable and awake.

"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 report co-author Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter.
"If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed. There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant's breathing or cause overheating."

Other AAP recommendations for a safe sleep environment: Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. Don't use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare. And avoid the baby's exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

According to the Academy, approximately 3,500 infants die every year in the U.S. from sleep-related deaths including SIDS, and accidental suffocation and strangulation.

The number had been decreasing after a national safe sleep campaign in the 1990s, but has leveled off.

Click here for more details from SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment.