Infants should sleep in the same room but not the same bed as their parents for at least the first six months of their lives, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
The report recommends that babies sleep on a separate surface in parents' rooms, such as a crib or bassinet, but never on a couch, armchair or soft surface for up to their first birthday.
Such soft surfaces can lead to nasal obstruction and asphyxia in infants.
"Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person," Rachel Moon, lead author of the report, said in a statement. "We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous."
And for tired parents feeding infants, if "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 report.
The guidelines serve as tips to decrease the risk of sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Researchers say minimizing risk factors is the best way to keep babies safe and decrease the number of sleep-related deaths in infants, which currently amounts to nearly 3,500 deaths per year in the United States.
"The whole phenomenon of SIDS implies that we don't know 100 percent what is responsible for the death, but we have theories," Feldman-Winter said.
The report cites evidence that shows parents who share their room with their infant can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
"Babies should share that sleep environment for up to one year, because there is a slight risk of SIDS that persists," Feldman-Winter said. "A baby that is within reach of their mother may have more comfort or physical stimulation from being in an environment with another person."
Other recommendations in the report include placing a sleeping infant on his or her back on a firm sleep surface with a tight-fitting sheet and avoiding the use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys.
Feldman-Winter said a bare crib or space is best.
"There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant's breathing or cause overheating," she said.
Feldman-Winter and Moon said that even with products advertising safer sleeping environments for children, small changes can make a big impact.
"We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home-monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures," Moon said.
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