I can recall so many instances when I fell asleep during a late-night feeding with my baby. I'd wake up, feeling disoriented, then terrified. Okay, my baby was right there next to me, sleeping. And she was fine. Phew.
Like many new moms, my exhaustation often led me to fall short of the safe sleep guidelines laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (It also led me to do things like put the milk in the pantry!)
Historically, the AAP has strongly discouraged bed-sharing with infants younger than 1, since the practice puts babies at risk for suffocation, strangulation, and parent rollover. But as many as 60 percent of mamas admit they bed-share with their babies at least sometimes (usually during or after a late-night feeding). So now, finally, the AAP is recognizing that bed-sharing happens. And they want to help moms do it safely with some new guidelines.
The new policy statement still emphasizes the importance of safe baby sleep basics like putting babies to sleep on their backs and not placing anything inside the crib other than a tight-fitting bottom sheet. The report adds that babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for six months, and optimally, a year. (Which seems really long. Just sayin'.) Room-sharing decreases a baby's chance of sleep-related death by as much as half, though, so it's worth whispering for a year!
But the important piece here is that the AAP is recognizing our struggle when it comes to lack of sleep. "We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep," said Rachel Moon, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the report.
Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, FAAP, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report adds, "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. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.
"There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets, or other items that could obstruct the infant's breathing or cause overheating," Feldman-Winter added.
It's important to note that the AAP is not encouraging bed-sharing, and recommends that babies sleep in their own beds, in parents' rooms. And parents should always aim to follow safe infant sleep practices, because the truly devastating reality, in addition to the fact that we sometimes can't keep our eyes open, is that 3,500 infants die annually from sleep-related death.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.