I’m a huge proponent of doing everything you can to raise a happy, healthy baby. However, I know I am one of many professionals who feel there is a disconnect between all the rules for safe sleep and what is actually happening in people’s homes. With October being SIDS Awareness Month, this seems very apropos to discuss as a community.
It is a major accomplishment that in the US, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates declined considerably from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to 39.7 deaths per 100,000 births in 2013. However, SIDS is still the leading cause of death in infants between the age of 1 month and 1 year of age.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), to have a safe sleep environment and lower your baby’s risk of SIDS, one should:
- Always place your baby on his back to sleep
- Have the baby sleep near you, in the same room, but not in your bed
- Use a firm sleep surface for baby
- Don’t smoke and keep your baby away from second hand smoke
- Use a fan in the room with the baby
- Use a pacifier, but only after the first three weeks when breastfeeding is established
- Avoid overheating your baby (ideal room temperature is 68 degrees)
- Remove bumper guards, blankets and toys from crib
That’s a lot of rules. But is that what actually happens?
When I listen to moms, I hear the reality of life with a baby. If I ask if they are co-sleeping with their baby in their bed, very few moms say yes. However, their next comment is typically: “Well, the baby starts in the crib, but when he wakes up the first time, I’m really tired, so I bring him into bed with me.” This essentially means the baby is spending much of the night in their bed.
As a mom, I totally get that. As a lactation consultant, I know co-sleeping helps promote bonding and maintain a good milk supply. However, since the peak SIDS incidence occurs in months 1 to 4, this is a time when I believe parents should especially exercise caution.
I believe we have scared parents so much about co-sleeping that there is an alarming increase in the number of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), many of which are due to suffocation. Infant suffocations can happen when parents or childcare providers fall asleep while holding a baby on a couch or recliner and accidentally roll over onto the baby.
A bed, set up for safe co-sleeping, is a much safer option than a sofa or cushy chair.
So, my recommendation is, if you chose to have your baby in your bed, be sure you have a safe sleep environment:
- No pillows or blankets near the baby
- A firm sleep surface
- Don’t risk allowing anyone to be in the bed with your baby if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are at risk for rolling over onto the baby.
In the end, choosing where your baby sleeps requires parents to assess what makes sense to them for their health, safety, and sanity.
Have you struggled with choosing between getting sleep and following all the rules for “safe sleep”?
Share your comments below.