- Safe sleeping conditions can help reduce the chances of sleep-related infant deaths.
- Pediatricians recommend that infants be placed on their backs and sleep in the same room as their caregivers.
- They don’t recommend infants sleep in the same bed as caregivers.
- They also say baby monitors can provide a false sense of security.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its safe sleeping recommendations for the first time since 2016.
In their statement, they outline the most important actions caregivers can take to minimize the risk of unexplained sudden death in infancy (sometimes called sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS).
The AAP also pointed out that in the United States, race and ethnicity are highly correlated with a lack of access to childcare resources, which contributes to a disparity in infant death rates.
They say that greater awareness of these disparities could help underserved communities better access this critical information.
So what were the recommendations? Let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts of infant sleeping.
The first point in the AAP’s statement is that infants should always be placed flat on their backs (supine position) to go to sleep.
When your child is old enough to roll over on their own, they might choose to sleep on their side or stomach, but parents are urged to continue to place them on their back when they lay them down.
“A baby that is strong enough to flip is also strong enough to control his or her head and breathing when he/she goes on to his/her stomach,” Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline
“Still, put your baby to sleep on his or her back,” Ganjian emphasized.
When babies are awake and supervised, that is the time for them to be on their stomachs (prone position). At least 15 to 30 total minutes of tummy time per day by 7 weeks of age encourages numerous benefits.
Dr. Candice Taylor Lucas, MPH, FAAP, an associate professor for the department of pediatrics at University of California Irvine School of Medicine, gave Healthline this helpful mnemonic: “Back to sleep and prone to play every day.”
Infants that are fed human milk, sleep in the same room as their caregivers, and go to sleep with a pacifier also have a reduced risk of sleep-related death.
In addition, the AAP statement emphasizes the importance of immunizations for infants and prenatal care for people who are pregnant.
A new addition to the AAP’s list is that home cardiorespiratory monitors are not recommended as a way to reduce sleep-related death.
In fact, it’s suggested these devices might lead to complacency that could increase a child’s risk factor, although that hasn’t been proven yet.
Caregivers and pregnant people should avoid smoking, alcohol, and other substances both while pregnant and after giving birth.
And while it’s best for your infant to sleep in your room, they should not be sleeping in your bed, on a couch, or anywhere with you while you’re also sleeping. These situations can all lead to accidental death.
An infant’s sleeping area should be free of all loose items, including pillows, blankets, plush toys, and hats.
Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in California, told Healthline that some devices marketed for sleeping infants, such as sleepsuits or anti-roll positioners, should be avoided for the most part.
“Those have all been found to be extremely dangerous. As a parent and pediatrician, I would never use them or recommend them. If [infants] do manage to roll and then get stuck, it may have dangerous, if not fatal consequences,” Posner said.
She said if you have questions about your child’s sleep, including questions about specific products, talk to a pediatrician as soon as you can.
While a primary caregiver is usually going to be putting the child to bed in most cases, it’s important to remember that other people will need this information too.
This could include family members, babysitters, and daycare centers.
“I always talk to parents to ensure that whoever is taking care of [their children] knows the recommendations and follows them accordingly,” said Posner.
“As parents, we can never be too safe when it comes to our children,” she added.