An influential group of doctors has advised that infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, to decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths. In a new policy statement the American Academy of Pediatrics warned infants should never be put to sleep on a soft surface and should share their parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months of age.

“We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep,” lead author Rachel Moon said, according to a news release. “Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous.”

Infants are at a heighted risk for SIDS between ages one and four months old, according to the news release, and new evidence shows that soft bedding continues to be a risk to babies who are four months and older.

The policy statement, “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” was released Monday and will be published in the November 2016 issue of Pediatrics. The policy includes steps on how to create a safe environment for sleeping, such as placing the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet, and recommended skin-to-skin care regardless of feeding or delivery method immediately following birth for at least an hour as soon as the mother is medically stable and awake.

Other guidelines for safe sleeping recommended avoiding the use of soft bedding, which includes crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys, avoiding baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs, and sharing a bedroom with parents preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. The policy said room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, according to the news release.

The policy recommends breastfeeding as an added protection against SIDS, and encourages parents to move the baby to his or her separate sleeping space after feeding. That sleeping space should preferably be a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom.

“If you are feeding your baby and think there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair,” co-author Lori Feldman-Winter said, according to the news release. “As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”
Other recommendations included offering a pacifier at nap and bedtime, avoiding commercial devices or home monitors marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS, vaccinating the infant and supervised, awake tummy time.

“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,” Moon said, according to the news 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.”