New study changes recommendations on safest place for babies to sleep

Scott Olson

Penn State College of Medicine researchers are arguing recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding room sharing.

Furthermore, infants who slept in their own rooms also tended to sleep undisturbed for longer stretches of time - nine hours, compared to 8.3 hours for later independent sleepers and 7.4 hours for children who remained in their parents' bedroom after the age of 9 months. The study claims those differences disappeared at 12 months but reappeared later. To decrease the chances for SIDS, the AAP advised that at infants should be at least six months old, and ideally 12 months, in the same bedroom, but not in the same bed.

Beyond its small size, another limitation of the study is that some mothers were given information on reducing the risk of SIDS and recommendations on where babies should sleep, the authors note, though this didn't appear to influence whether room-sharing occurred. At nine months, babies in their own rooms slept 40 minutes longer at night and more than 20 minutes longer overall than those sharing a room with their parents.

SIDS is the sudden unexplained death of a child less than one year of age.

The study noted that babies who slept with their parents slept the same amount as babies who slept alone but at interrupted stretches of sleep.

"Inadequate infant sleep can lead to obesity, poor sleep later in life and can negatively affect parents", Paul added. "This decision in the first year has potential longer term consequences", says Paul.

For more about room-sharing with your baby, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Babies were more likely to sleep in parents' rooms when the mothers were single or not living with a partner, had less income or education, or had less space in their home to give the baby a separate room. Both customs have been linked to sudden infant death, including by suffocation. This could significantly raise the risk of SIDS said the lead researchers.

Moon also cautioned that longer sleep isn't necessarily better sleep. "In this case the AAP just went a little too far", he says. "I might chalk it up to a parent's sixth sense when a baby is nearby and making erratic noises or not that helps save these babies". The mothers in the study were overwhelmingly white and wealthier than the average American.

"A leading hypothesis in SIDS causation is that failure to arouse makes the infant more vulnerable to dying from SIDS", Moon, author of an editorial accompanying the current study, said by email.

'This starts a vicious cycle where a baby becomes accustomed to a parent responding to them.

"But that's the point", he said.

But, Hauck urged parents to weigh the potential pros and cons of room-sharing.

The wrong side of the bed?

However, Dr. Ian Paul, a professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Pennsylvania State University, was skeptical of the AAP suggestions, telling CBS News that it was based largely on "expert opinion" and not "real data".

At four months old, room-sharing infants had greater odds of having a potentially unsafe object in bed with them, such as blankets or pillows, which are linked to sudden infant death syndrome because they can obstruct a baby's airway and cause them to suffocate.

"If we know that this is happening, then we can do a better job of providing proactive guidance for families", she said.

"They're going to do whatever they can to get the child back to sleep", he said.

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