New Rules State That Baby Should Share Parents’ Room for First Year

The American Academy of Pediatrics just released new baby sleep guidelines—looks like you might be getting a new roommate!

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You may have a little more time to create a wow-worthy nursery for your baby: New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that you keep your baby as your roommate for the first year of life to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

The guidelines, published in the journal Pediatrics, recommend putting your baby down in the same room as you, but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, for at least the first six months, but preferably until the first birthday. Based on research the AAP reviewed, "this arrangement reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent," says the report's co-author and SIDS Task Force member Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH.

To keep your baby even safer, go minimal with the crib—only use a fitted sheet, and don't put in any blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, or stuffed animals. "Soft objects and bedding can obstruct the infant's airway, lead to suffocation or rebreathing [carbon dioxide], and may lead to five times the risk of SIDS," Feldman-Winter says.

And the other big change? The AAP recommends that if you're likely to snooze when you're feeding your baby (and who hasn't?) that you should bring your baby into your bed and remove the sheets and blankets to keep your baby safe.

The problem of bed sharing

Some moms, especially those who are breastfeeding (which is also AAP-recommended), want to bed share or co-sleep, which means sleeping in the same bed as their baby. It definitely makes nursing all night easier, but is it safe? The new guidelines, which were updated for the first time in five years, say no. "The AAP recognizes that parent-infant bed sharing is common, even if not routine," Feldman-Winter says. "However, evidence shows that bed sharing may be hazardous." It increases the risk of SIDS and suffocation, especially for newborns under four months.

Jodi Mindell, PhD, says that the recommendation against bed sharing is controversial because avoiding it may inhibit breastfeeding. But "to align with the recommendations of safe sleeping and breastfeeding, there are other ways that mothers can keep their babies close by while maintaining safety," says Mindell, chair of the Pediatric Sleep Council, which just launched the new informational website "Bedside sleepers, bassinets or portable cribs are great alternatives" to keep newborns near, she says.

Sleeping in a sofa or chair is actually more dangerous than sleeping in bed with your baby—so if there's any chance you might fall asleep while feeding, take your baby into bed with you. "Given the increased hazard in a couch or armchair, it's recommended that infants are brought into bed for feeding, then returned to a separate surface for sleeping," Feldman-Winter says. If you do bring your baby into bed, remove pillows, loose sheets, and blankets, and if you happen to fall asleep, return your little one to the crib as soon as you wake up.

Finding sleep solutions

When you're a sleep-deprived new mom, it can be hard to follow all the rules—especially at 2 a.m. "Parents often resort to any means possible to get the rest they need," Mindell says. It's also difficult to decide what's best "when there are so many voices out there, many with very strong opinions." The recommendations even seem to go against each other—everyone wants to keep babies safe, but also encourage attachment and breastfeeding. "The best thing that parents can do is to develop solutions that meet all of their baby's needs," she says. According to the guidelines, this means keeping baby close—in the room with you, even right next to the bed, just not in the bed.

The AAP's guidelines for babies up to one year include:

  • Put infants down on their back, even if they have reflux.
  • Put babies down on a firm surface (crib, bassinet, portable crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding, crib bumpers, or soft objects.
  • Infants should sleep in their parents' room, but on a separate surface.
  • Infants who've been brought into their parents' bed for feeding or comfort should go back to their own crib afterward.
  • Couches and armchairs are dangerous for infants, so don't fall asleep with your baby when sitting on them.
  • If you think you might fall asleep while feeding, take your baby to bed and remove pillows and blankets. Move your baby back to the crib as soon as you wake up.