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Parents of newborns should share a room (but not a bed) — why?

Claire Zulkey wonders when she'll ever get used to the idea that she has two boys. She is the author of two books for young people, An Off Year and Best Frenemies. She and her filmmaker husband live in Evanston, IL. You can find out more...

How exactly can sharing a room with a newborn protect against SIDS?

Parents in a rush to decorate their kids’ nurseries before the baby comes can slow their roll. A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents co-room — but not co-sleep — with children up to the age of 1 in order to best protect against SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths.

“Infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents — but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, and never on a couch, armchair or soft surface — to decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths,” according to a new policy statement released by the AAP.

More: Doctors figured out the 1 day of the year SIDS deaths are highest

You know how a study comes out and you get all defensive because you make it all about you and decide that the study basically says, “You are lucky your kids are alive at all, you terrible parent!” I did that thing. Not only did I not breastfeed (which the AAP recommends as another weapon in the arsenal against SIDS), my husband and I put both our kids in their own rooms immediately upon arriving home from the hospital. We took turns rooming in with our first son on a futon in his room, and predictably, woke up with every little grunt and sigh he made. We had a tough time.

By the time the second kid came, we just put him in his room, slept in our own bed and kept the door open. We thought we had it all figured out. But according to pediatrician Rachel Moon, lead author of the AAP report, those annoying, exhausting little wakeups we experienced with our first son are conceivably what can keep kids safe.

More: Co-sleeping mothers are lying about sleeping with their babies

“We believe that roomsharing changes how the baby sleeps,” she told me via email. “When you are in the same room, there are frequent small awakenings, both for the baby and the parent. When the baby stirs, the parents wakes a little bit. And when the parent stirs, the baby wakes a little bit. We know that the ability to arouse is enormously protective, and it is likely that these small awakenings are protective.”

So, there you go. Good luck, new parents. Keeping kids alive these days is serious business.

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