Instead of decorating a nursery, many parents choose to co-sleep with their babies.
Co-sleeping may be done for convenience, bonding or to make nighttime breastfeeding easier, but it can also reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID).
"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in their parents' room for the first six months of life to prevent the occurrence of SIDS," says Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, a health psychologist and international board certified lactation consultant.
When Moorea Mallat's infant daughter was diagnosed with two types of sleep apnea, she not only co-slept but also bed shared to help regulate her breathing. She explains, "Whenever I sensed that my daughter had stopped breathing, I was right there to rouse her or breathe on her. When we were concerned about our baby's sleep, the first thing the doctor told us was to watch her chest carefully and check the lips and face for a bluish tinge. I could not do that from another room."
According to The Safe to Sleep campaign, if you bring your baby into your bed for breastfeeding, you should return him to his crib or bassinet when done feeding — room sharing is recommended but bed sharing is not.
However, many parents bed share since it feels right for them and their babies — in many countries bed sharing is the norm, and when the tragedy of SIDS or SUID occurs, it usually also involves other risk factors like smoking, alcohol use or putting Baby in a tummy-down position instead of his back for sleeping.
You don't need to breastfeed to co-sleep with your baby, but breastfeeding provides additional benefits when it comes to reducing SIDS and SUID.
Kendall-Tackett explains, "Being near Mom at night increases breastfeeding rates overall — but there's more. When babies are near their mothers at night, they are more likely to breastfeed exclusively. Exclusive breastfeeding increases infant survival rates. This effect is so striking that even the SIDS researchers are now saying that advice about infant sleep location must not compromise breastfeeding."
Whether you room share, bed share or a combination of both, be sure to put your baby to sleep on his or her back on a firm surface. Keep anything soft, like blankets or stuffed animals out of your baby's crib or bassinet. If you bring your baby to bed with you, even just for feeding, make sure comforters and pillows are out of Baby's way.
Whether you decide to room share, bed share or a combination of the two, sleeping near your baby may save her life.
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