Keeping babies safe at bedtime: Tips to prevent sudden infant death syndrome

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American Academy of Paediatrics guidelines state that babies should sleep on their backs to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. PHOTO: ST FILE

The new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) on Monday (Oct 24), calls for infants to stay in their parents' room for six months to a year if possible - but not sleep in the same bed.

The guidelines, which were last issued in 2011, also state that babies should sleep on their backs, so as to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs) and other sleep-related deaths.

Here are some other recommendations from the report:

1. Room-sharing without bed-sharing

Infants should not be placed to sleep on beds because of the risk of suffocation, says the report.

Babies should be placed in his own crib or bassinet, near the parents' bed.

Bed-sharing is especially dangerous when the infant is younger than three months, and if either parents are smokers.

It is also not recommended for babies to share a bed with someone who is excessively tired, or taking medications that could impair his or her alertness or ability to wake up.

Infants should not be fed on a couch or armchair, as there is a high risk that the parent might fall asleep.

2. Sleep in supine position

Infants should be placed to sleep in a supine position, which means wholly on their backs, with the rare exception of those with upper airway disorders, for whom airway protective mechanisms are impaired.

Babies should be allowed to sleep in this position until the age of one. However, they can be let to remain in the sleep position they assume once they can roll from supine to prone (lying on their tummies) and from prone to supine.

3. Use a firm sleep surface

Mattresses should be firm, fit the cot or bassinet well, and covered by a fitted sheet.

Do not use pillows or cushions as substitutes for mattresses, or place soft materials or objects such as pillows, quilts and comforters under a sleeping infant.

Loose bedding, such as blankets and sheets, should be kept out of the crib as they might be hazardous.

Only use mattresses designed for the specific product, and cribs with missing hardware should not be used.

4. Sleeping in car seats or slings

Sitting devices, such as car safety seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers and infant slings, are not recommended for routine sleep.

Infants who fall asleep while in these devices should be removed as soon as is practical and moved to a crib or other appropriate flat surface.

When using infant slings and cloth carriers, ensure that the infant's head is up and above the fabric, the face is visible, and the nose and mouth are clear of obstructions.

5. Avoid overheating

Infants should be dressed appropriately for the sleeping environment, without any overbundling or covering of the head and face.

Parents and caregivers should also look out for signs of overheating such as sweating or the infant's chest feeling hot to the touch.

6. Breastfeeding associated with reduced SIDs risk

Breastfeeding has been shown to offer more protection against SIDS than no breastfeeding, according to AAP. The protection increases when infants receive only breast milk exclusively.

AAP recommends mothers to exclusively breastfeed or feed with expressed human milk for six months.

7. Pacifier at nap time and bedtime

Studies have shown the pacifiers can protect against incidences of SIDS, even throughout the sleep period and when the pacifier falls out of the infant's mouth.

The pacifier should not be hung around the infant's neck or attached to the clothing of sleeping infants.

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