Since 2016, the official American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy has been that infants should share a room but not a bed with their mothers. Are moms getting the message? According to a new study, the answer is largely no.
The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed 3,260 mothers of infants who were 2 to 6 months of age and found that fewer than half (45%) were room-sharing without bed-sharing. Moms who were breastfeeding (which the AAP highly recommends) were among those who were more likely to keep their babies in bed with them overnight.
"The official stance of the AAP is that no parent should be bed-sharing with their infant because of the risk of suffocation," says Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician in Portland, OR, and author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One. "A baby's nervous system is very immature, so they're unable to react" in the event that a parent accidently rolls over or a pillow ends up on top of them, she explains. In her practice, an infant sadly died after a dad's arm accidentally ended up over the baby's face during the night.
Parents should never bed-share if they're under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication that might make it hard for them to wake up, and smokers should not bed-share, either (even if they're not smoking in bed). Babies younger than 4 months are especially at risk for bed-sharing.
The ideal scenario is to keep baby in your room but in a separate crib or bassinet. That's actually safer than letting your baby snooze in a nursery down the hall, because even if you have a monitor you're missing some of the "human to human" monitoring that can help keep your baby safe, Casares says. Keeping your baby in your room may decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by as much as 50%, plus it makes it easier for you to feed and calm your baby during the night.
Other smart moves: Always put babies less than a year old to sleep on their backs, even if they tend to spit up. (Their gag reflex will prevent choking.) Don't put anything besides sheets -- including toys and blankets -- in the crib or bassinet, and make sure the sleep surface is flat and firm.
If your baby is having trouble sleeping, Casares recommends swaddling and using a white noise machine or app. "These can be really effective ways to mimic the feeling of being in the womb," she says.
Last, try to take care of yourself, and don't be afraid to lean on your partner, family, and friends. If you can afford it, you might consider hiring some extra help. "We know sleep deprivation is common, but it's a major factor for postpartum depression and anxiety," Casares says. "The more we can get new moms what they need, the better they can handle the sleeplessness."
3 Safe Steps
Share a room, not a bed. Bed-sharing with newborns can be dangerous.
Keep it bare. Babies don't need bumpers, pillows, or blankets; these items may increase the risk of suffocation.
Put infants to sleep on their backs. It reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
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