Co-sleeping, where a parent and her child sleep in the same bed, is common in the Philippines. But doctors are urging parents not to co-sleep with their infants at least until your baby knows how to roll over due to the risk of death due to suffocation, strangulation, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
In the United States, “the number of babies dying from accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed skyrocketed 184% from 1999 to 2015,” according to new statistics released this February by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), reports WebMD.
In the AAP’s updated safe sleep recommendations, the guidelines state that co-sleeping should be avoided “preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months.” Moreover, babies should “share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface,” says the AAP.
The separate sleeping surface can be a crib or bassinet placed in the same room where mom and dad sleep. This room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
Co-sleeping with an infant be more natural during night feedings, but the risks are not worth it. Even for breastfeeding mothers, the AAP still recommends avoiding co-sleeping. At night, you can feed on your bed but place your baby back in his sleeping surface after. “If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed,” says Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a co-author of the AAP safe sleep report.
Another reason why co-sleeping is dangerous for infants of a parent’s bed, which is rarely bare. A baby’s sleeping space should only have a firm mattress and a tight-fitting bed sheet — no pillows, blankets, stuffed toys or any other soft items as these also pose risks for accidental suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.
When you place your baby down to sleep, remember that he should be lying down on his back as well. “Over the past several years, research has learned a vital lesson that can help reduce the risk of having SIDS — keep the babies on their back when they sleep,” explains Dr. Philip S. Chua, the chairman of cardiovascular surgery at Cebu Doctors' Hospital. This should be followed until the baby is 1 year old.
“The old teaching was that the babies should sleep on their tummy. That advice was abandoned because of the observation that the prevalence of SIDS was very low among those babies who slept on their back, and higher among those who slept on their stomach,” adds Dr. Chua.
As WebMDpoints out, a baby placed on his side can roll over on his stomach. It's a position that “puts your baby’s face in the mattress or sleeping area, which can smother him.”
“Once your baby can roll over both ways, which usually happens around 6 months, he may not stay on his back. That’s okay. It’s fine to let him choose his own sleep position once he knows how to roll over,” WebMD adds.
SIDS, or the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby during sleep, is not entirely preventable, but following safe sleep rules helps reduce the risk. Learn more about it here.