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Indian moms – rejoice! You’ve been doing it right by keeping your babies in the same room at night! Children’s health experts recently issued new safe-sleeping guidelines, as per which its important that a baby sleeps in the same room as the mother. But there’s a catch! Find out what the experts have to say about the ideal sleeping habits for your baby and you could prevent a disaster!
Moms want to keep their baby close at all times. In Indian society, co-sleeping with the baby is a norm, and as parents, we often sleep with our little ones at least till they are well into toddlerhood. While cosleeping definitely has some drawbacks, it has the big benefit of keeping your child in close proximity. Time and again, there has been controversy about this practice. There have been conflicting reports on whether co-sleeping is healthy and if keeping babies too close can be detrimental to their development. But a recent, conclusive study by the American Academy of Pediatrics has laid to rest all apprehension about this. Here is what they have to say.
New parents are best advised to keep their babies close to them while sleeping. Doing this reduces the risk of sleep-related deaths and the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in infants. This frightening syndrome leads to the sudden death of an infant with the cause remaining unexplained. The study has shown that sleeping in the same room can decrease SIDS risk by 50 percent in infants up to 1 year.
However, here’s the important detail: it is also imperative that the baby sleep in a different bed than the mother – even while sleeping in the same room! The AAP advises that babies sleep in their parents’ bedrooms, but in a separate crib, for at least the first six months, and, optimally, until the baby is 1 year old. After reviewing previous research, the conclusion is that the safest way to put an infant down to sleep is on the baby’s back and in a separate bed near the mother.
Why your baby should NOT share your bed
The primary reason for this recommendation is that babies require a bed specially designed for them. Their sleeping space must never have soft bedding or objects that can cause blockage to their airway. Their beds must be free from pillows, sheets, blankets or any other items that could interfere with their breathing. In fact, sleeping in an adult bed that is likely to have these objects can also cause overheating. This is why, even if you are breastfeeding, singing a lullaby, or just cradling your baby while sitting on your bed or say, the sofa, be very careful. You must NEVER let the baby fall asleep anywhere but in his own, personal bed that has a tight-fitting sheet and a firm base.
The highest risk of death by SIDS occurs in infants under 6 months old. The diagnosis for deaths caused by SIDS continues to be bleak and no one cause can be nailed down. However, the unifying thread in these shocking deaths is that they usually occur during sleep. This is why we absolutely must guarantee that our babies are safe while sleeping. Yes, it is a continuing challenge to keep ourselves from sharing our own bed with our baby. But if this can help keep them safer and make their sleep quality better, then this is what we should endeavour to do.
Here are the other guidelines issued by the AAP that help reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths in infants:
- The baby be put on his back while sleeping with no hazards to prevent obstruction of the airway
- The baby be put to sleep in a flat surface with tight sheets, like a crib or a bassinet. Portable cribs and playpens with a tight-fitting mattress and tight-fitting sheet are acceptable as well
- Routine skin-on-skin care and regular tummy time when the baby is awake to help development
- The baby is up to date on vaccinations
- The baby be breastfed. Exclusive breastfeeding has been linked to reducing the risk of SIDS by up to 70 percent!
- Offering a pacifier at sleep time after breastfeeding
While shopping for your baby, remember this critical rule: not everything that is sold in the market is safe for babies and not everything that is marketed is true. Your baby’s sleeping surface needs to be flat and unobstructed. Cribs, bassinets and playpens carefully designed for babies are ideal. Bouncy seats and slings should be used to comfort babies and not as sleeping places. Even car seats are unsafe for sleeping as the unstable sleep position can lead to their airway being obstructed. They can be especially dangerous if the head tends to fall down and disturbs their normal breathing.
SIDS is a very real and very alarming risk for our babies. The very thought of losing your baby while he is seemingly asleep is the kind of stuff nightmares are made of. But the good news is that this risk can be cut down significantly by following the above guidelines. It is our responsibility as parents to make the right decisions at the right time for our child’s safety.