Keep Your Baby Safe From Suffocation By Feeding Them On The Bed, Not The Couch, At Night

Tiny babies love to wake up their parents in the middle of the night. It's just how they're programmed. And plenty of sleep-deprived parents, remembering that bed sharing is risky, choose to feed their babies while sitting on the couch. A new recommendation says maybe the bed is better, after all. Photo by Micah Sittig.

This recommendation, from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), comes from the observation that parents often doze off during middle-of-the-night feedings. Couches are an extremely dangerous place for sleeping babies; they put babies at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) but also plain old suffocation. For example, a baby can slip out of your arms and get wedged between the couch cushions.

Bed sharing is still not as safe as keeping your baby in her own crib in your bedroom, so the AAP isn't exactly endorsing it. But they say that if you're likely to nod off during a feeding, you should put the baby in the safest place you can. That may be your own bed.

To make your bed a safe place, it should have a firm mattress, and you should remove blankets, pillows and other items. Lay the baby on her back, and whenever you wake up, move her back to her crib. Here's the relevant paragraph from the AAP's new SIDS recommendations:

The safest place for an infant to sleep is on a separate sleep surface designed for infants close to the parents' bed. However, the AAP acknowledges that parents frequently fall asleep while feeding the infant. Evidence suggests that it is less hazardous to fall asleep with the infant in the adult bed than on a sofa or armchair, should the parent fall asleep. It is important to note that a large percentage of infants who die of SIDS are found with their head covered by bedding. Therefore, no pillows, sheets, blankets, or any other items that could obstruct infant breathing or cause overheating should be in the bed. Parents should also follow safe sleep recommendations outlined elsewhere in this statement. Because there is evidence that the risk of bed-sharing is higher with longer duration, if the parent falls asleep while feeding the infant in bed, the infant should be placed back on a separate sleep surface as soon as the parent awakens.

Read the full recommendation, including other tips for preventing SIDS, at the link below.

SIDS and Other Sleep Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Sleeping Environment [American Academy of Pediatrics]


    To be clear, current evidence suggests that for the best outcome for non-medicated /drug affected parents, both for baby and parents comes from co-sleeping.

    The effects extend to reduced incidence of postnatal depression (both for mum and dad) , quicker-to-regulate supply for mum and bub and better sleep all round for everyone.

    There are lots of good resources about safe co-sleeping (hint: don't get drunk and passout with a newborn, don't layer the bed thickly with extra unused pillows and doonas etc).

    Aside from the icky - hippyishness of the idea (I'm a militant, fundamentalist science nerd =D) it really does go a long way to setting up a happy healthy family with better regulation of sleep, hormones (mum, dad and baby) and psychological well being (little humans rightly fear being alone - for 99% of our species history, being a baby and being alone probably meant death).

    Also - comparing notes with people that did the normal white people things (which is what I'd have done without intervention from my wife followed by research) - its just a hell of a lot more convenient for all involved.

    For the people that like solid data and hate hippies - suck it up and have a look. Try to ignore the other crazy ideas that sometimes follow along together... and a have a good look at it yourself. We have tools now (eg MRI machines) to help test old theories that sound good (eg cry it out method, any kind of separation training in infants) which often produces surprise results (eg cryitout babies continue to get just as physically stressed as measured by activity and cortisol levels... They just stop verbalizing - net result : kids with reduced neural development due to elevated stress plus flow on effects to emotional regulation and relationship forming behaviors being baselined as an infant).

    Please invest as much time in getting your little person configured right as you do in "optimizing your work flow" or picking a new laptop. Different choices are ok - uninformed or willfully ignorant ones are not.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now