Pediatricians offer new advice to prevent SIDS

Infants should sleep in the same room as their parents – but not in the same bed – for at least the first six months to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to new guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The group issued on Monday updated recommendations for safe infant sleeping environments – the first update since 2011.

The new recommendations, which are based on new research, suggest infants sleep in their parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months and, ideally, until the child is 1 year old.

The recommendations call for the infant to sleep on a separate surface, such as a bassinet or crib. They should never be laid to sleep on a couch, armchair or other soft surface, according to the academy.

Here are the academy recommendations for creating a safe sleep environment:

– Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.

– Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.

– Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

– Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Breastfeeding is also recommended and can provide added protection against SIDS, according to the pediatric group.

“If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair,” said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, co-author of the recommendations. “If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”

Infants are at a heightened risk of SIDS when they’re between 1 and 4 months old. But new evidence suggests soft bedding continues to pose a risk for babies older than 4 months, according to the group.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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