No sleep for a year?
Q: The AAP now says parents and infants should sleep in the same room through age 1. But I can’t sleep because I wake up with every false cry my baby makes! Can I break this rule?
A: In October 2016, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) officially recommended that in order to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in their parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months and optimally for a full year.
Sleeping in the same room as your baby can be lifesaving; it reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent by allowing parents to be aware of and quickly respond to every environmental nuance. No baby monitor will ever equal being in the same room as your baby — experiencing first-hand the sounds, temperature, air quality and other influential elements of your baby’s sleeping environment.
It’s very important that your baby should have his or her own separate sleeping location in your room. The AAP recommends that babies should sleep on their backs — on a tightly fitted sheet — in a crib or bassinet. Your baby’s sleeping space should be bare. Blankets, pillows and toys that seem comfy can pose a serious risk of suffocation and strangulation to babies.
But perhaps the most significant reason for babies to have a separate sleeping space in their parents’ room is the danger of the parents’ bed. The parents’ bed and parents themselves can be a source of inadvertent suffocation for babies. Large pillows, heavy blankets, gaps between the mattress and a wall, and big, cuddling parents’ bodies can obstruct little nasal passages.
When parents inevitably have to feed their baby in the middle of the night, having a safe sleeping space nearby — instead of a separate room down the hall — can help reduce the inclination among parents to bring a baby into their own bed.
Of course, a year can seem like a very long time when your baby sleeps restlessly. Making sure your baby has a cool, smoke-free sleeping environment and offering a pacifier at bedtime can help assuage restlessness (and will also reduce the risk of SIDS).
While the one-year rule is more of a guideline, it really is a lifesaving guideline.
Plus, as a parent, you’ve got at least 18 years of poor sleep ahead of you — you can totally handle one year!
Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the senior medical director of primary care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.