New Co-sleeping Guidelines from the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their co-sleeping guidelines for the first time in five years. The organizations Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is at the helm of the latest recommendations, which largely share the same rules for avoiding SIDS except for one key factor. The new guidelines recommend co-sleeping in the same room but in different spaces for the first year of your baby’s life.

Co-sleeping is a much-debated topic in early parenting. As parents learn to navigate their babies and are often sleep deprived, sleeping near one another can be the most convenient way to comfort and feed your baby. The AAP’s new co-sleeping guidelines aim to achieve multiple goals for parents and babies – including restful sleep and easier nighttime feedings – while also balancing the safety of babies and avoiding SIDS.

The term co-sleeping can mean different things to different parents. It is often used for bed-sharing or may be used in the broader sense of rooming-in. The new co-sleeping guidelines recommend the later, sleeping in the same room as your baby but having separate sleep spaces. Having babies in the bed with their parents increases risk of suffocation from parents or smothering from items in the bed like sheets, pillows or blankets, or babies re-breathing carbon dioxide if they are trapped beneath an object.

The Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome says that co-sleeping in separate sleep spaces can reduce risk of SIDS by up to 50%. This is because parents are still in tune with their babies needs and are able to hear them should there be an issue in the night. Plus, it allows for easier and therefore more frequent skin-to-skin contact that calms and regulates a baby’s body, as well as breastfeeding, which reduces risk of SIDS as well.

A baby’s sleep space should be a firm, flat surface such as a crib or cradle. Only a fitted sheet should be in a baby’s sleep space. Pillows, blankets and even soft toys should not be in the bed during sleep times. Cribs and cradles should be up to current safety standards (which change often) to ensure they do not present choking, falling or entrapment hazards.

Additionally, the new co-sleeping guidelines remind parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs. Even if your baby has acid reflux, back-sleeping is the best way to reduce risk of SIDS. (Regurgitation is unlikely to cause choking if your baby is on his back.) Also, sleeping on chairs and couches is even more dangerous that bed-sharing. For parents who tend to fall asleep while holding or nursing their babies, a bed with all sheets, blankets and pillows removed is the better choice. But babies should be placed back on their own sleep surface once the parents wake.

The latest sleep recommendations to avoid SIDS can be found in the published report in the journal Pediatrics or on the AAP’s website. Furthermore the Pediatric Sleep Council launched a new website called babysleep.com that has helpful tips and information.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Fit Pregnancy and KellyMom