The American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations on Oct. 18 to promote safe sleep for babies and decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Infants should be breast-fed, when possible, and immunized with all their shots, the new guidelines say, because studies have shown both reduce the risk of SIDS.
The ideal baby bed consists solely of a firm crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet, according to the AAP. There should be no gaps between the mattress and the crib.
Bumper pads pose a risk of suffocation (if the baby rolls up against the pad and doesn't roll away), and strangulation (if the baby gets tangled in the bumper pad ties.).
Other recommendations from the AAP include:
. Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
. The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room sharing without bed-sharing). This arrangement reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent, research shows.
. Infants should not be fed on couches or in armchairs when there is a high risk that the parent will fall asleep.
. Mothers should not smoke before or after pregnancy, as smoking is a major risk factor for SIDS.
. Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Researchers aren't sure why, but using a pacifier is linked with a reduced risk of SIDS, even if the pacifier falls out of the baby's mouth during sleep.
. Avoid covering the infant's head or allowing him to overheat.
. Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS (there is no evidence such devices are safe, or that they reduce SIDS).
. While awake, infants should spend some supervised time on their stomachs. This "tummy time" avoids putting constant pressure on the back of the skull. It also strengthens the baby's neck muscles, which reduces the risk of head deformities that can occur when the baby's head lies on one spot for too long.