We’re breaking down the new ‘American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Guidelines for Safe Sleep’ so that you can rest easy.
Safe sleep isn’t a new concept but: “Approximately 3500 infants die annually in the United States from sleep-related infant deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ill-defined deaths, and accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.” (Source)
Some of the highlights of the new ‘AAP Guidelines for Safe Sleep’
Some of these guidelines won’t be new to you, as they are drawn from the past and simply being reinforced with this new release of guidelines, but they’re worth reviewing and sharing with anyone who is pregnant, recently had a baby or is caregiving for a family with a new baby.
•Babies should be put to bed on the backs in a crib or bassinette.
•A firm mattress should be used, with no extra bedding, blankets, bumpers, positioners or toys included in the crib.
•The crib should be in good repair, have slat spacing of no more than 2 and ⅜”, and should not have drop sides.
•Any other device such as infant carriers, swings or strollers should not be used on a regular basis for the baby to sleep in, particularly before the age of four months, as they may position their heads in such a way that it blocks off their airway, causing suffocation.
•Sleeping in the same room as the parents is encouraged until at least six months of age and ideally to one year. This reduces the chances of SIDS by 50%, as parents can more closely monitor the infant.
•Co-sleeping in the same bed is not recommended, particularly for babies under four months of age or with a low birth weight, because of the risk of suffocation.
•Co-sleeping with babies on sofas or chairs should be avoided at all costs, as the risk of suffocation is even higher if the parent should also fall asleep, wedging the baby between themselves and the sofa cushions.
•Avoid the baby overheating in their crib by dressing them appropriately for the temperature of the room.
•Breastfeeding (or expressed milk) for the first six months decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.
•Some studies have shown that offering a pacifier can help reduce SIDS, though why this is the case is still unclear.
•The guidelines also emphasize the importance of skin-to-skin time, post partum, in reducing the risk of SIDS.
One interesting change to the guidelines is the AAP’s willingness to acknowledge that while they can’t support co-sleeping, they know it happens and by acknowledging it, they are doing what they can to reduce any shame or judgement that the parents might feel they would have to endure if they spoke about their sleeping arrangements with their pediatrician, for example.
Reality dictates that an exhausted mother who is breastfeeding MIGHT fall asleep with the baby in the bed and that this is still better than feeding on a sofa and falling asleep there, where the baby is at serious risk. They note that the baby should be returned to their crib or bassinette as soon as possible but go on to add that if feeding in bed, the surface should be firm, with few pillows or blankets, minimizing the risk of suffocation or strangulation, should Mom fall asleep.
Acknowledging the realities of parenting makes the guidelines more palatable and reasonable to the average person. It also makes it more likely that people will pay closer attention and follow the guidelines. And that’s better for everyone.