Infants should share parents' room under new sleep safety guidelines

Infants should sleep in the same room as their parents but not in the same bed, under new updated pediatric guidelines released on Monday, aimed at preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants between the age of one month and one year old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) updated recommendations largely reaffirm the group's previous policies from 2011, including placing the baby on his or her back and on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet, with a tight-fitting sheet.

AAP has also advised parents to avoid using soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys.

Now researchers say that based on the latest evidence, infants should share their parents' bedroom for at least the first six months and optimally, for the first year of life.

As part of the new guidelines, experts acknowledge that tired parents sometimes fall asleep while feeding their babies and that parents should set a plan to prevent potentially deadly dangers.

"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," said Lori Feldman-Winter professor of pediatrics at Cooper Medical School and co-author of the AAP's new guidelines.

Experts say if a mother falls asleep, feeding a baby in a sofa or an armchair is more hazardous than feeding the infant on a bed.

"As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed," Feldman-Winter said. "There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant's breathing or cause overheating."

Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, according to researchers.

Figures show every year, some 3,500 children in the United States die from SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.

Researchers acknowledge that little is known about SIDS, but they say parents can take steps to greatly reduce the risks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is holding its National Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco, where it presented its guidelines and new report, "SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment."