New advice could reduce cot death risk by 50 per cent
Child health experts warn never to put infants to sleep on sofas, armchairs or soft surfaces to lower the risks of thousands of sleep-related deaths.
Parents are urged to to let infants share their bedrooms for at least the first six months, preferably for a year, according to the latest research.
Dr Rachel Moon, lead author into the report announcing the new recommendations, said: “We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep.
“Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person.
“We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous.”
While infant cot deaths are at heightened risk between one and four months, new evidence shows that soft bedding continues to pose hazards to babies who are four months and older.
Experts instead suggest placing the baby, on his or her back, on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
They also warn against using soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys - the crib should be completely bare.
Doctors have renewed the warnings as the number of infant deaths decreased in the 1990s after a national safe sleep campaign, but has plateaued in recent years.
Around 3,500 infants die every year from sleep-related deaths in the United States, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ill-defined deaths, and accidental suffocation and strangulation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who will present the report, recommend mothers and babies have at least an hour of skin-to-skin contact after birth, and remind mothers that breastfeeding adds protect against SIDs.
After feeding, the AAP encourages parents to move the baby to his or her separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom.
Dr Lori Feldman-Winter, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report, said: “If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair.
“As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.
“There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.”
The AAP recommends that doctors will open and nonjudgmental conversations with families about their sleep practices.
Dr Moon added: “We want to share this information in a way that doesn’t scare parents but helps to explain the real risks posed by an unsafe sleep environment.
“We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.”
The report was published in the journal Pediatrics.