Dear Moms and Dads,
One of the best things about being a pediatrician is seeing you love your newborn. You show this in many ways, like your excitement when they turn to your voice, your relief when they finally get back to birthweight, and of course, your worries about, well sometimes anything and everything.
Yep. I know how much you worry about your kids. And I know that night time can be a particularly anxious and vulnerable time for you; afterall, it’s the only time when you can’t keep your watchful eyes on your little loved one.
Making matters worse is a truly frightening occurrence called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. We pediatricians have been trying to figure out the cause of SIDS for years, but unfortunately, we still don’t fully understand why it happens. But rest assured, we have never stopped trying to figure out how best to avoid it.
This is why for the past thirty years, we have continued to look at the best studies and research throughout the world to find out what risk factors to avoid, and practices to encourage, so that your infant can sleep safely, and you can sleep soundly.
The good news is our efforts have paid off, big time. Our biggest breakthrough came in the 90s when research showed us infants sleep safer on their backs. This cut the SIDS rate in the United States almost in half! We estimated more than 30,000 babies have been saved! But we didn’t stop there. Next came research showing us the ABC’s of safe sleep, meaning that infants sleep safest Alone, on their Backs, and in their empty Crib, without all that soft bedding, bumper pads, or cute stuffed animals. Sorry pinterest, we know it’s a boring crib, but we feel satisfied knowing it’s the safest sleep environment we can offer.
So, it has been a few years, and again our SIDS experts have scoured the latest and best research available to give us updated recommendations, in hopes that we can continue to decrease every sleep related death possible.
The 2016 highlights are these:
- Continue to place your infant Alone, on the Back, in their own Crib.
- Have your baby sleep in your room, in their own crib, for the first six months of life, and consider continuing until your baby’s first birthday. We call this ‘room sharing,’ and is recommended because it can decrease the risk of SIDS. This is different from bed sharing, and is not recommended for any babies.
- Breastfeeding babies have a lower risk of SIDS. We recommend breastmilk as your baby’s only source of nutrition for about 6 months, and to continue offering breastmilk as long as you can.
- Swaddle if you would like, but only until your baby starts to show signs of rolling over – usually around 2 months old
- Use a pacifier once breastfeeding is going well
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about these recommendations during my nursery rounds, and from friends and family through my social media feed. The big issue seems to be with keeping your infant in your room (not your bed) for the first six months. For some of you,this will lead to a change in your baby’s sleep location. Full disclosure, my wife and I gave our kids the boot from our room at around 8 weeks.
I want to emphasize here that we don’t exactly know why room sharing decreases the risk of SIDS. It’s not because I expect you to keep one eye open during the night. More importantly, it’s not because I expect you to wake up at the right moment to prevent SIDS. The truth is, there is no known way to prevent SIDS. But it would be wrong to not advertise this recommendation, which may decrease SIDS by as much as 50%!
Again, our hope is that knowing the risk factors for SIDS will help you sleep more soundly at night. But if this isn’t true, and your snoring, rustling, babbling new roommate is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, this can be a real problem too! I hope you share with me, or your pediatrician, these concerns and, as always, we can find the solution that makes the most sense for you, all things considered.
Good luck, and always happy to answer comments and questions!