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]