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Sleep Safety

Q: My 7-month-old seems to sleep best on the couch. Is this dangerous?

A: Yes, for several reasons, says Fern R. Hauck, M.D., director of research in the department of family medicine at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville and author of a 2003 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) study.

"Putting infants to sleep on any soft surface, such as a couch, increases the likelihood of SIDS," she says. "Couch sleeping also raises the risk of entrapment or suffocation on sofa cushions." And if another person is on the couch with the sleeping infant, the risk for SIDS or suffocation becomes even greater. As a result, says Dr. Hauck, mothers should be cautious about nursing on a sofa because of the dangers of inadvertently falling asleep there with the baby.

Parents should consistently place infants to sleep on their backs and avoid all soft bedding, according to Dr. Hauck and the AAP Task Force on Infant Sleep Positioning and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.