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New guidelines seek to promote safer infant sleeping habits

Experts hope these efforts will prevent sleep-related infant deaths

Baby sleeping in crib
Photo (c) Emma Kim - Getty Images
A new study conducted by the researchers from the University of Virginia Health System explored the new safe-sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The goal of the new recommendations – which encourage parents to keep infants on their backs on flat, level surfaces to sleep – is to protect infants from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

“The best way to protect your baby while they are asleep is to follow these guidelines,” said researcher Dr. Rachel Moon. “When you place your baby for sleep, they should be on their back in a crib, portable crib, or bassinet that meets Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, and there should be nothing but the baby in the crib.” 

Promoting safe sleep habits

Experts say parents need to do everything possible to make their babies’ sleeping environment as safe as possible and that their recommendations will help guide those efforts. 

Keeping infants on their backs to sleep isn’t a new recommendation, but the researchers are reinforcing the importance of this sleeping position. They also say parents should avoid putting any stuffed animals, pillows, or blankets in the crib or bassinet with their babies.

While many infants are likely to fall asleep in their car seats or strollers, the team says this shouldn’t be a habit. Infants – especially those under four months old – shouldn’t be regularly sleeping on anything inclined. 

They also explained that breastfeeding and using pacifiers were linked with lower levels of SIDS. 

What to avoid

The recommendations highlight a few other things that parents should avoid when creating sleeping habits for their infants. For starters, any items that are marketed toward reducing the risk of SIDS are likely to be ineffective. They noted that there is no official evidence that any such products can be protective of infants’ health. 

Additionally, they recommend that parents stop swaddling when their babies are around three or four months old. Once they start becoming more mobile, swaddling can be dangerous and increase the risk of suffocation. 

The researchers hope these guidelines help parents keep their infants safe and reduce some of the worries around proper sleeping habits. 

“These recommendations are consistent with prior guidelines, with some updates based on new information,” said researcher Dr. Fern Hauck. “We want to reach new parents, grandparents, and other infant caregivers so that everyone is aware about how best to keep their baby safe. We also want parents to know that it is important to speak to your baby’s doctor about the guidelines and have an open discussion so that you can share your thoughts and make the best choices in caring for your baby.”

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