The rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has declined more than 50 percent since the 1994 Back-to-Sleep campaign was launched, encouraging parents to place infants to sleep on their backs. But, unfortunately, SIDS still remains the leading cause of death for babies from ages 1 month to 1 year, claiming more than 2,000 lives in the United States alone every year.
SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant. And though it is unpredictable, where in most cases the baby seems healthy yet death occurs quickly, there are steps you can take to help prevent it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the authority in SIDS prevention and safe sleep, states that a baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing). Avoiding bed-sharing reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
Additional recommendations from the AAP to decrease the risk of SIDS include:
Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time, and make sure other caregivers and family members do the same.
- Breastfeed your baby if possible.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy or after delivery. Do not allow others to smoke around your baby.
- Always use a firm sleep surface for your baby.
- Do not use fluffy blankets or other soft materials under your baby when going to sleep, and do not use wedges or other sleep positioners.
- Keep stuffed toys, bumper pads and pillows out of the crib.
- Avoid overheating in the crib, keeping your baby warm but not too warm.
- Offer a pacifier at bedtime or naptime.
- Immunize your baby.
These are recommendations from evidence gained through research performed over the past 30 years, and are designed for healthy babies up to 1 year of age.
We understand that some cultures highly value the practice of bed-sharing and there are several popular parenting approaches, including attachment parenting, that encourage bed-sharing along with other specific parenting practices.
If you are an expectant or new parent and plan to share a bed with your infant, I hope you will reconsider and ultimately choose not to bed-share. The risks of suffocation, strangulation and SIDS are simply too great.
Room-sharing is an excellent modification of the practice and is shown to be just as beneficial to the infant as sharing a bed.
Note: In some instances, physicians may recommend that babies be placed on their stomachs to sleep if they have disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux or certain upper airway disorders, which make them more likely to have breathing problems while lying on their backs. Always follow the recommendations of your child’s physician.