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Babies Sleep Safest in Their Own Beds

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Based on their findings, Kemp and colleagues conclude "that the deaths may not have occurred if certain high-risk sleep practices had been avoided, and that the majority of deaths were preventable."

If there's any good news, it's that the rate of SIDS has dropped drastically in the last 10 years, according to Betty McEntire, PhD, executive director of the American SIDS Institute in Atlanta. The reason, she tells WebMD, is that "one of the big emphases has been in placing babies in a safe sleep environment, and that's a very simple thing."

McEntire stresses that babies be placed face up in their own bed on a firm mattress, with nothing around their face. That means no bumper pad, no toys, and no pillows.

In addition, Kemp says, "Parents should not fall asleep on couches or chairs with their infants, or sleep in the same bed with the infant if they use blankets or pillows. And always put infants on their back to sleep."

Experts agree that intensifying the public health message to parents, guardians, and day care providers about safe sleep is crucial. Still, the issue remains controversial because many parents and organizations encourage bonding in bed with the baby.

"I love the thought of [bedsharing] with a baby," McEntire says. But to safely bond with baby, she suggests that parents "take the baby in the bed to cuddle; then, before you or the baby goes to sleep, place him in a safe bed."

Andrew H. Urbach, MD, believes the "back-to-sleep" message has become increasingly clear over time, despite the controversy. "All [experts] now recommend babies be placed on their backs for sleep," he tells WebMD. "And bedsharing is a behavior I personally discourage and many pediatricians do, too. Still, it's controversial. At one time, sharing a bed is how we lived and how we slept, with our children next to us." But that's definitely a practice to be questioned now, because of the substantial risk of SIDS, says Urbach, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

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