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.
According to First Candle, a national nonprofit organization, at least 50 percent of all sudden infant deaths could be prevented by placing babies to sleep in a safe environment.
BEDTIME BASICS FOR BABIES
Here are some important tips to protect your baby from SIDS, suffocation and accidents during sleep:
• Always place your baby to sleep on her back!
• The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a safety-approved crib with a firm mattress that fits snugly and is covered with only a sheet.
A recent study found that approximately 15 million American school-age children suffer from health and behavioral problems caused by inadequate sleep. And since babies with good sleep patterns turn into children with good sleep patterns, it's wise to start instilling healthy habits early on. Here's how:
You no doubt know that placing your baby to sleep on her back dramatically reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But did you know that putting her on her belly when she's awake is also important?
As nighttime temperatures plunge, you might be tempted to crank up the thermostat and bundle your baby in blankets. Your intentions are good, but keeping her too warm may put her at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which peaks in winter and strikes most often between ages 2 and 4 months. Instead, keep the room temperature at 68° F to 72° F and follow these sleep-safety tips from Baltimore's First Candle/SIDS Alliance:
I recommend a very gentle approach. Start by nursing your son for a shorter time in his own room and soothing him to sleep by patting and rubbing him through the bars of the crib. Do this for a few nights; for another few evenings, soothe him to sleep with no nursing. Finally, spend several nights talking to him until he falls asleep, with no rubbing or patting. I don't pretend this is a "no-cry" solution, but your baby's distress will be mitigated by your or your husband's presence. For more information, visit drjaygordon.com/development/ap/sleep.asp.
Rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have plunged recently because more parents are placing babies on their backs to sleep, as recommended by government experts. But babies born to educated mothers have experienced the greatest reductions in risk--suggesting the public-health "back-to-sleep" campaign hasn't reached everyone. It's possible that some mothers haven't heard the advice, don't follow it or have other SIDS risk factors, such as smoking or using soft bedding, says study author Kate E. Pickett, Ph.D., of the University of York in England.
The "Safe to Sleep" campaign led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in collaboration with other organizations has led to a 40 percent drop in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rates since 1994. However, a not-so-pretty side effect is a 50-fold increase in the number of babies with flattened heads, or positional plagiocephaly.
While pacifiers can soothe fussy babies, the plastic gadgets also have been linked with lower rates of breastfeeding and higher risk for ear infection. But now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has weighed in, recommending pacifiers to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the first year of life.
Without being militant, there are ways to encourage good sleep habits right from the start, says Chicago pediatrician Marc Weissbluth, M.D., author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Random House, 2005). His suggestions:
First few days home Your baby will be very sleepy. Try not to stay up gazing at him as he snoozes--you may be able to handle it now, but you'll soon regret racking up sleep debt.