New infant death data warns against co-sleeping and crib decorations  

With its first update to safe-sleep guidelines for infants in more than five years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is emphasizing that co-sleeping and crib decorations are not safe for infants — under any circumstances. 

People magazine reported that the group said these practices cause an “increased risk of (sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS]) and suffocation.”

The AAP update, a study titled “Evidence Base for 2022 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment to Reduce the Risk of Sleep-Related Infant Deaths,” makes several recommendations for reducing SIDS risk. They include human milk feeding, using a pacifier, routine immunizations, as well as avoiding exposure to nicotine and abstaining from alcohol, marijuana, opioids and illicit drugs.

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Citing the AAP update, People reported that room-sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. While pointedly discouraging bed-sharing, the pediatric group said room-sharing has many benefits, including providing a sense of comfort for parents and infants and facilitating the feeding of infants.

“It is recommended that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for at least the first 6 months,” the study said. 

Until infants are at least a year old, they should sleep on a “firm, flat, non-inclined sleep surface (e.g., tightly fitting mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects to reduce the risk of suffocation or wedging or entrapment,” the study advised.

As reported by People, Dr. Rebecca Carlin, a co-author of the AAP study, said bed-sharing or co-sleeping is dangerous for infants. “The evidence is clear that (co-sleeping) significantly raises the risk of a baby’s injury or death. For that reason AAP cannot support bed-sharing under any circumstances.” 

In the update, the AAP noted that the overall death rate of infants related to sleep has remained low — albeit with disparities — dating to 2000 after a steep drop in the 1990s. The group said, per the People article, that around 3,500 infants die each year from sleep-related incidents.

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