Recommendation calls for infants to share room with parents

When is it OK for babies to sleep by themselves?

When is it OK for babies to sleep by themselves? It's a question that might never have a definite answer. All babies are different. Just like all parents are different.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued new guidelines on sleeping arrangements. They say infants should sleep in the same room as parents, but not in the same bed.

Registered nurse Kitty Russ, of the Cleveland Clinic, said, “Infants don't have as much neck control; once they get past the six month mark they're able to move. Once infants are rolling over we find a decrease in the sleep-related deaths."

Russ, a birthing specialist at Cleveland Clinic, said the recommendation is aimed at reducing the number of sudden deaths of infants that sometimes occur within the first months of life, often due to unsafe environments.

Tracy Lehman from Nick Finnegan Counseling Center agrees. “Research shows they do tend to sleep better and longer when they sleep in the same room,” Lehman said.

The recommendation calls for babies to sleep in their own crib within their parents' bedroom for at least the first six months of life.

The idea behind the AAP’s recommendation is to create a heightened sense of awareness and for parents to be able to react to the baby immediately if he or she is in distress.

And parents -- what are you supposed to do if your baby won't stop crying? Doctors and nurses caution parents against holding their baby to get them to sleep. It's especially dangerous for parents to fall asleep while holding a baby, as the baby can easily suffocate.

Russ said, “We know when they get home in their own environment they're just so exhausted and frustrated and tired, and babies get fussy, but we also know that we don't see babies dying from crying. We see babies dying from, again, these sleep surfaces that aren't conducive to what we teach."

Russ encourages parents to follow the safe sleep guidelines every time, even if it seems difficult, because it only takes one time for an accident to happen that can cost the life of a child.

Other recommendations for a safe sleep environment include using a crib or bassinet with only a fitted sheet. The bed should be free of any bedding, blankets, stuffed animals or crib bumpers.

Also, always lay babies down on their backs to avoid obstruction to their airways.