Parents can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS) by keeping their newborns in the same room with them while they sleep, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP recommends that for at least the first six months — and ideally the whole first year — babies sleep on a separate surface in their parents’ bedroom like a crib or bassinet but not the bed.
The Center for Disease Control defines SIDS as a form of sudden, unexpected, and unexplainable infant death that occurs when a child is less than 1 year old. While SIDS can occur at any point during the first year, the majority of cases have been recorded during the first six months.
The extensive study, announced Monday during the AAP National Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco, examined 11,717 SIDS cases between 2004 and 2014 and found that nearly 80 percent of deaths occurred in-home but were potentially avoidable. The study will be published in the November 2016 issue of Pediatrics.
Experts agreed that the optimal sleeping position for newborns is on their backs on a firm surface with a fitted sheet near their guardians. Pillows, crib bumpers, blankets, and toys all presented an increased risk for suffocation or strangulation in bed.
Approximately 3,500 infants in the United States die every year from sleep-related deaths like SIDS, a number that initially fell following a national safe sleep campaign in the 1990s, but has since remained steady for the past few years.
The AAP added that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are other ways to help protect against SIDS.
“We want to share this information in a way that doesn’t scare parents but helps to explain the real risks posed by an unsafe sleep environment,” Dr. Rachel Moon, lead author of the report, said in a press release. “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.”
While the new report recommends that infants share a room with parents, it does not suggest keeping a baby in the parental bed. Soft bedding, pillows, and comforters pose a suffocation hazard to infants. Even a soft couch surface can be dangerous for a sleeping baby, according to the study.