You’re probably hearing it already – “back is best,” the mantra The American Academy of Pediatrics hopes to instill in new parents in regard to infant sleep. Since 1992, the AAP has been issuing this advice: Put baby down to sleep on his or her back, on a firm mattress in a crib. Every time. No exceptions.
But let’s get real. The sleep deprivation of new parenthood may find you catching some z’s wherever you can – even if that means sharing a bed with your new baby. While you may not plan to bed-share, there’s no harm in knowing what safety precautions to take – but there’s plenty of harm to be had without them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that each year, more than 4,000 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly – many of which can be attributed to unsafe sleeping arrangements.
Our advice? Stick with the APP’s guidelines, but know how to co-sleep safely, should you ever find yourself dozing off next to your little one. Learn the guidelines now so that when baby arrives, you’ll be prepared for any situation.
A safe sleep environment
Dr. James McKenna, the director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, has created a set of safety guidelines for mothers who choose to co-sleep. He and his team recommend:
- Only breast-feeding mothers bring their babies into bed. For mothers who choose to formula feed, McKenna advises room-sharing, by placing a crib or bassinet within arm’s reach. Why the divide? McKenna posits that breast-feeding mothers are more attuned to their baby’s movements than moms who bottle feed.
- Babies sleep on their backs, on a firm surface.
- Babies sleep without blankets, pillows, toys, sheepskins, or the like.
- The mattress should fit tightly into the bed frame so that an infant cannot fall into a crevice and suffocate.
- Parents never fall asleep on a sofa or recliner with baby, as they pose a suffocation risk.
- Parents inhibited by drugs or alcohol should never bed-share. Same goes for excessively heavy sleepers – or people who are very overweight.
- Any parent with long hair should tie it up and keep it out of harm’s way.
So, what do you think? Will you ever share a bed with your baby – why or why not?