Ask any new mom or dad what they find most difficult in a child’s first year, and they will probably mention sleep deprivation.

By a baby’s first birthday, most parents have tried some sort of intervention – something to help their child learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own, so that everyone can get a good night’s rest.

Now there is a new factor that has to be taken into consideration when developing a sleep plan for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their guidelines for safe sleeping practices. These guidelines include the recommendation that babies under 6 months, and preferably up to one year of age, should sleep in the same room as their parents. This represents a new effort to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as research shows that sharing a room with parents can reduce SIDS by up to 50 percent. Other AAP recommendations for reducing the risk of SIDS include:

  • Avoiding cigarette, alcohol, and drug use during pregnancy (and after birth)
  • Putting babies to sleep on their backs
  • Breastfeeding
  • Using a pacifier
  • Following the immunization schedule
  • The AAP statement recommends that babies sleep in a crib, bassinette or co-sleeper near – not in – the parents’ bed. However, the academy acknowledges that mothers often nurse their babies while in their beds and fall asleep unintentionally. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for safe bed-sharing:

  • Ensure the mattress is firm and flat
  • Place the baby so he cannot fall out of the bed, or slip between a mattress and wall or headboard
  • Keep the sheets and blankets very light
  • Keep the room cool
  • Babies should never be in bed with adults who have consumed any alcohol or altering medications or substances
  • Since many parents occasionally co-sleep (planned or unplanned!) at some point, it’s best to follow these guidelines even if they don’t plan to bed-share 100 percent of the time.

    Adapted from “New Infant Sleep Recommendations and Strategies” by Sarah S. MacLaughlin. © Zero to Three