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You might lose sleep over the latest SIDS prevention recommendation

Monday, November 14, 2016 Leave a Comment

Guest post by Noah Makovsky, MD, Stapleton Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) unveiled a critically important new recommendation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) prevention at its annual conference in late October by announcing that newborns sleep in the parents’ room for at least the first six months of life and, ideally, up to one year.

The Academy thoroughly reviewed the most recent literature and reported that this sleeping arrangement can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. Considering there are approximately 3,500 sleep-related deaths of babies per year in this country, a reduction by half of those that are SIDS-related is a significant finding.

As a pediatrician, I am contemplating the significant potential impact of this new infant sleep recommendation. One of the most common issues that parents discuss with me daily is their own lack of quality sleep. The AAP recommendation could mean that new parents will have to endure a longer-than-expected time period of interrupted sleep and subsequent exhaustion.

In my opinion, the tremendous potential benefit of following this new infant sleep recommendation outweighs the potential prolonged period of parents’ interrupted sleep. I understand this represents a big change for some families. Yet parents, family members, caregivers, and physicians all need to be prepared to discuss how to incorporate this transition into a family’s life.

Two more SIDS prevention recommendations from the conference are worth noting. While the Academy has always recommended vaccines for infants, recent evidence suggests that vaccinations may have a protective effect against SIDS. Further, the Academy has acknowledged the reality that many parents fall asleep while feeding their infants. Research shows that it is safer for these parents to fall asleep in their own beds – without pillows, blankets, or sheets that could obstruct infant breathing or cause overheating – than falling asleep on a sofa or chair.

The AAP also reiterated the importance of proven SIDS prevention techniques, including:

  1. Always place an infant on his or her back to sleep.
  2. Place infants on a firm surface without soft bedding, pillows, blankets, toys, or bumpers.
  3. When possible, breast feeding is recommended.
  4. Consider offering a pacifier during naps and bedtime.
As always, you should reach out to your pediatrician with any questions and to discuss what’s right for your family.

Lastly, I will return to what I like to call the “paradox of parenthood” – if a newborn sleeps up to 18 hours per day, why are parents so exhausted? The answer lies in the irregular and interrupted sleep patterns of parents and newborns. Here are a couple of suggestions to help parents improve their own sleep, which will positively impact their daily outlook while journeying through the early stages of parenthood:

  1. Attempt to spread out the caregiving duties among family members and friends, so each parent has a chance to get at least six hours of continuous sleep every day.
  2. If that’s not possible, I recommend adding up all the hours of interrupted sleep that a parent gets in a 24-hour period. If you can get to six hours, you can “rest” assured that you can move on to a fresh, new day.
Most importantly, enjoy your wonderful new baby every day. Although you may be a bit tired, before you know it, the “baby days” (and nights) will be over. Sleep well!

** This blog post was written to serve as informational guidance about the AAP’s recent recommendation and should not be taken as concrete medical advice, nor do the views above reflect the views of Stapleton Pediatrics or any HealthONE organization. As with any medical questions or concerns, it’s imperative to make an appointment with your physician for questions, concerns, diagnosis and treatment.

“Dr. Noah,” as Noah Makovsky, MD, is affectionately known by patients, parents and colleagues, is a Denver native who received his medical degree from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He has been recognized by his peers every year for the past 11 years as a “Top Doc” in 5280 Magazine. He practices at Stapleton Pediatrics, which he helped found and is affiliated with several metro hospitals, including Rose Medical Center and its newly appointed Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children pediatric ER. Dr. Makovsky is married with three children and has been known to say, “I’m constantly humbled by parenthood.” For more information, visit stapletonpeds.com.