Some parents not only room share, but bed share with their new baby. This is clearly a SIDS risk if the parents are sleep deprived, cigarette smokers, inebriated, very obese, or share the bed with other children.
The more you read books and blogs about little babies, the more you’ll notice some conflicting opinions as to whether or not bed sharing is a risk when these factors are not present. However, since new parents are usually exhausted, most pediatricians feel it’s best to err on the side of caution and recommend having babies sleep next to the bed (in a bassinet or co-sleeper) not in it.
In 1999, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned parents about the possible dangers of bed sharing with children less than two years old. Their conclusion was that parents should never sleep with them in their beds.
Of course, our highest priority must be to prevent any child deaths from unsafe sleep practices, but banning bed sharing until after two is unrealistic and unnecessary. For example, 80 percent of the deaths in the CPSC study could have been avoided by filling the spaces around the bed (to prevent head wedging) and by avoiding waterbeds.
Most doctors recommend no bed sharing until around six months. By then, infants are usually strong enough to move their face away from puffy pillows and comforters and the arms of exhausted or obese parents. They are also better able to cry loudly and get their parent’s attention.
No approach is perfect for all families, but the vast majority of infant sleep deaths are preventable—with just a few precautions.
Ten Ways to Reduce the Risk of SIDS and Suffocation
1. Only let your baby sleep on the back.
2. Breast-feed if you can.
3. Don’t smoke, drink, or use drugs! (And don’t let others smoke in your home.)
4. Don’t overheat (try to have the room 65–72 degrees, avoid overdressing, and cover your baby’s head).
5. Use snug swaddles for all naps/nights to keep your baby from accidentally rolling to the stomach or into a dangerous position.
6. Offer a pacifier at bedtime (wait until the nursing is well established).
7. Never sleep with your baby on a couch or waterbed.
8. If you choose to bed share, always use a co-sleeper attachment to keep your baby protected.
9. Remove pillows, toys, bumpers, and thick or loose bedding that could cause smothering.
10. Practice tummy time to help your baby develop strong muscles to move away from choking risks.