Experts' advice on keeping your baby safe
It's natural to want to be near your baby 24/7. But experts have differing opinions when it comes to sharing your bed with an infant. "We don't know how to make bed sharing safe," says pediatrician Rachel Moon, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on SIDS, which recommends not bed-sharing as a way to prevent SIDS. "You can bring the baby into your bed for breastfeeding, bonding and cuddling, but we recommend that babies sleep separately right next to the parents' bed." Options include a crib next to your bed, a freestanding bassinet or one that attaches to your bed.
In contrast, infant-sleep expert James McKenna, Ph.D., director of the Mother/Baby Sleep Lab at Notre Dame University in Indiana, believes bed sharing can be safe for your baby. "First and foremost, make sure no one is a smoker, that there are no other children in the bed and that neither parent has used drugs or alcohol or is excessively tired," says McKenna. "The safest way to sleep with your baby is to take the mattress off its frame and put it in the middle of the floor."
The reason is that while cribs have safety standards, adult beds do not. Dangers include gaps between the bed and the wall or a piece of furniture where the baby can become lodged, gaps between the mattress and the headboard or footboard, and pillows and comforters near the baby. Falling asleep with your baby on other surfaces, such as a couch or waterbed, is also not recommended. An option for parents who want the baby in the bed with them but are afraid of rolling over onto him when they're asleep is to place him in a three-sided "bed within a bed" in the middle of the parents' bed.
Even if your baby is a bassinet away, he will still benefit by being close to you. "If the baby is in the same room as you but not in the same bed, that's actually protective," Moon says. "You can hear the baby better and the baby can hear you, so he may arouse more readily." Sleeping close to your baby has also been shown to provide such health benefits as regulating the baby's heart rate, immune system and stress levels and making breastfeeding easier.
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