What parents should know about new guidelines to keep sleeping babies safe

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The American Academy of Pediatrics just updated the guidance on safe sleep for babies. So what do the new guidelines mean for parents and caregivers? Our Alexandra Montgomery spoke with Dr. Becca Bell of the AAP-Vermont Chapter to find out.

Reporter Alexandra Montgomery: So the first thing I want to get out of the way is the difference between co-sleeping, room sharing and bed-sharing.

Dr. Becca Bell: The great question, and we really don’t use the term co-sleeping anymore because that means different things to different people. And so we want to get really specific when we’re talking about the best environment for infants to sleep in. So we do not recommend any sharing of surfaces. So we do not recommend bed-sharing. What we want is for the infant to be in their own space, their own safe sleep space. So in a crib or a bassinet or a play yard, we want that surface to be flat and firm and not inclined and not to have anything else and have no blankets or toys or bumpers. But we do recommend that families share a room with the infant. So we recommend room sharing until about six months if possible. We do not recommend bed sharing or or sharing services on a like a couch or a sofa. And the reason why we recommend room sharing is that caregivers are more easily able to to feed the infant, to comfort the infant and then put them right back in their safe sleep space.

Alexandra Montgomery: So the American Academy of Pediatrics has been talking about safe sleep for a long time. So what are these new updated guidelines say about safe sleep?

Dr. Becca Bell: Well, I want parents to know that not much has changed. The really important message is that all infants should be placed to sleep on their backs in their own safe sleep space and that there shouldn’t be anything else in that sleep space. So that really is the key messaging I don’t want parents to think that anything major has changed. And the rest of the things that we recommend also can help protect against sudden, unexpected infant death. So things like keeping staying up to date on immunizations, avoiding overheating. Breastfeeding is protective as well. And so there’s sort of the list of all the stuff we recommend generally. But really, the important things are that safe sleep environment.

Alexandra Montgomery: So monitors, like on a baby’s foot, promise to help keep a baby safe while they’re asleep. Why aren’t they recommended?

Dr. Becca Bell: Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of products on the market that make claims that are just not based on evidence. And so there are these monitors that are direct to consumers that claim that they can help prevent something like sudden, unexpected infant death. There’s just no evidence that they can do that. They’re not dangerous. There’s no contraindication to using them. What we don’t want is for parents to feel reassured that they have their child on a monitor and then place them in an unsafe sleep scenario.

Alexandra Montgomery: Gotcha. OK. What do you recommend for just exhausted parents who can’t seem to put the baby down?

Dr. Becca Bell: So this is so common and so the first thing I say is that infants are - they need to eat every two to three hours. That is normal and that is healthy. And that is exhausting for parents and caregivers. It’s exhausting. And so we need to do a better job supporting new parents and understanding that they are going to be up all night. I think a lot of when I see infants have been placed in unsafe sleep situations, it’s because the parents are desperate for themselves to get sleep and for their infant to get sleep. So I just let families know that it’s a wonderful time to be a new parent. It’s also exhausting and it’s also temporary. And so just seeing how we can help families can support each other in the home to get through that time period. And there are other things that are fine. And we talk about this, too. There’s swaddling that we can do that can help an infant before they’re able to roll over, pacifier use can actually help as well. So there are little tricks that you can talk to your pediatrician or your child’s family physician about how to kind of get through those really tough few months. But I think the other thing that’s not helpful is when people talk to new parents and say, ‘Oh, is your baby sleeping through the night?’ Because that’s not what we expect. We know children have to wake up. Infants have to wake up every two to three hours. And so it sort of sets an expectation that infants should be sleeping through the night and they really shouldn’t be.

Alexandra Montgomery: OK. Great information there. Thank you so much, Dr. Bell. I appreciate your time.

Dr. Becca Bell: Thanks so much for having me.

Click here for the full guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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American Academy of Pediatrics updates safe sleep guidelines for babies

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