Cosleeping -- not to be confused with bedsharing -- is when parents keep their baby at a close distance while sleeping, such as having the child sleep in a crib next to the parents' bed. "Everyone should have their own sleeping environment," says Abby Collier, project manager of the Child Death Review program at the Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends having your baby's crib within an arm's reach of your bed for safety as well as for ease of breastfeeding and bonding for the first six months. Such proximity can help you monitor your baby, making it easier and faster to respond to any situation.
While keeping your little one close by is important, the best way to ensure his safety is to resist the urge to let Baby sleep in your bed. "Bedsharing can increase your baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by making breathing more difficult," says Eileen Tyrala, M.D., pediatrician at St. Christopher's Hospital in Philadelphia and medical director of Cribs for Kids. "It would only take a small movement on the parent's or bedsharer's part to make it not only difficult, but impossible for the baby to adequately breathe," Dr. Tyrala says. Here's how parents can minimize sleep dangers and prevent suffocation.
The AAP recommends babies sleep in an uncluttered, safety-approved crib in a smoke-free environment and urges parents to make sure Baby sleeps on his back -- the safest position to protect against SIDS. Before making the big purchase, make sure your infant's crib has passed all safety regulations and has the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification. It's also a good idea to make sure it has not been involved in any recalls. This is equally important when buying a used crib. Some general rules of thumb when purchasing and setting up your baby's crib: Crib slats should be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart, the mattress should be firm, the mattress should fit the selected crib without any gaps, and the sheets should fit the mattress securely. When deciding where to set up a crib, parents should steer clear of window blinds that have cords, which can pose a risk of strangulation, or any other furniture that could cause injury.
If space in your room is tight, bassinets offer parents an option for sharing a room with their baby. The same safety precautions apply to bassinets as they do to cribs: Remove all soft objects, such as blankets and pillows; make sure the bassinet is JPMA-certified and is assembled properly; and check that the bassinet hasn't been involved in a recall.
After your baby is 6 months old, you can prepare to move Baby into her own room. "It is important to create distance so your baby doesn't become reliant on an outside source in order to fall asleep," Dr. Tyrala says. "Baby monitors can assist in this move-out process, as parents and child cope with the change in distance." Not wanting to separate from Baby during the night isn't uncommon, especially for new mothers and fathers -- it might take some getting used to. Doctors recommend focusing on a balance between keeping your child safe and secure but also backing away to allow the child to develop independence.
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