One of the first areas that I cover in my consultations as an Infant Sleep Educator is to ensure that your baby is in a SAFE sleep environment. SIDS and accidental suffocation are a major concern for parents; and rightly so. We all want our babies to be safe, day and night!! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room sharing with your baby for the first year; with your baby on their own sleep surface.
But sticking with your planned sleeping arrangements can be a struggle sometimes. When exhaustion takes over, it can be tempting to make major changes; but night weaning and sleep training can be damaging for both your baby's brain development AND your milk supply.
When it comes to bedsharing, we need to be realistic; when you're exhausted, and getting in and out of bed to feed & change your baby during the night, it can be tempting to just lie down with your baby to nurse. Telling an exhausted, sleep-deprived parent not to sleep with their baby is like telling teenagers not to have sex. They're going to do what is right for them, and it's more important to teach them how to do it SAFELY!
Over two-thirds of parents who planned to have their baby sleep in a crib or bassinet end up bedsharing with their baby at some point. (Did you know that nursing parents who bedshare with their baby actually get MORE sleep during the night?) It can actually be even MORE dangerous when you're unprepared, and accidentally fall asleep in an unsafe place - such as a couch or a recliner. Being prepared just in case can greatly reduce the risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation!
That's why La Leche League created their "Safe Sleep 7" checklist.
If you are: 1. a non-smoker 2. not taking any drugs or heavy medications 3. and nursing your baby day and night;
And your baby is:
4. born healthy and full-term, with no major health issues
6. and not swaddled or overheated;
And you are both:
7. sleeping on a SAFE surface;
then you have eliminated all of the major SIDS risks, and greatly reduced the major suffocation risks!
A safe sleep surface means no other children or pets in the bed, no loose clothing or sheets, no toys or stuffed animals, pillow is away from baby's face, and baby is lying next to the nursing parent; NOT between caregivers.
Remember, these precautions are not a 100% guarantee; nothing is. Consider driving in a car; you would never plan on having an accident! But you also wouldn't consider driving without a seatbelt, or bringing your baby without a carseat, right? Following these 7 simple steps for safe sleep is just like driving with a seatbelt.
Trust the facts, not the fear mongering; You are the only one who can decide what is right for you and your baby.
Recommended Reading: Sweet Sleep – Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family. Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith, and Teresa Pitman.