Infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents for at least the first six months of their lives to minimize the risk of sleep-related deaths, according to new guidelines from U.S. pediatricians, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Reuters reported.
Ideally, babies should stay in their parents' room at night for a full year, according to recommendations released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Babies shouldn't share a bed with parents, however, because that increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the guidelines stress. The safest spot for infant sleep is on a firm surface such as a crib or bassinet without any soft bedding, bumpers or pillows.
Sleeping in the same room, but not in the same bed, may reduce babies' risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent, said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a co-author of the AAP guidelines and pediatrics researcher at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey.
"Bed-sharing is potentially hazardous for SIDS, and this is most important for infants under four months of age and those who were premature or low birth weight," Feldman-Winter added by email.
The new guidelines also encourage skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after birth to help prevent SIDS.
With cesarean deliveries, mothers can do this with their babies as soon as they are awake and alert after surgery and, in the meantime, fathers or other caregivers can provide skin-to-skin contact to newborns.
Breastfeeding can also help prevent SIDS, but mothers still shouldn't sleep with babies in their beds to make nursing more convenient in the middle of the night, according to the guidelines, published in Pediatrics.
SIDS has become much less common in recent decades as doctors have urged parents to put infants to sleep on their backs without pillows or other soft bedding and toys that could pose a suffocation risk. But it still remains a leading cause of infant mortality, killing about 3,500 babies a year in the U.S. alone, according to the AAP.