Doctor Group Issues New Infant Sleep Guidelines

New recommendations have been issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help minimize sleep-related deaths in babies. AAP’s guidelines suggest against the use of ALL crib bumper pads, among other recommendations.

Prior AAP guidelines suggested only against using the “puffy” type of crib bumper pads; that recommendation has been upgraded to include all types of crib bumper pads. The guidelines also state that no proof exists that the products prevent injuries, said The Wall Street Journal. As a matter-of-fact, the guidelines indicate that “there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment,” the AAP said, according to the Journal.

The updated guidelines also recommend that women breastfeed their infants to reduce risks for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suggest pacifiers be used with infants, citing a decrease in SIDS risks with pacifier use, said the Journal. Breastfeeding has long been recommended for a number of other reasons, but was just added to AAP’s sleep recommendations after evidence linked breastfeeding to decreased SIDS risks, according to Rachel Moon, chairwoman of the AAP SIDS task force and the new guidelines’ lead author said the Journal. Dr. Moon is also a SIDS researcher and pediatrician with the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The revised guidelines also suggest infants sleep in a different bed, but in the same room as their parents, which will help reduce suffocation risks and enable parents to be nearby for feeding and monitoring, reported the Journal. The group has also recommended, as far back as 1992, that babies be placed on their backs when sleeping, a guideline credited with the ongoing decline in SIDS deaths, noted the Journal.

Although this type of SIDS deaths has seen a decline, deaths due to suffocation and entrapment have risen, thus the expanded AAP guidelines, scheduled for release Tuesday and meant to reduce all infant sleep-related deaths, said the Journal. The revised recommendations were released at the AAP’s yearly meeting in Boston and were also published online in the journal Pediatrics.

We’ve long written that baby crib bumpers, although adorable, might actually pose deadly risks in the nursery. The products are used to keep babies from hitting their delicate heads against crib slats, but some studies indicate that the babies can actually roll onto the cushioning where they suffocate. In some cases, babies have choked on the bumper’s strings.

Crib bumpers were among a number of products that the AAP and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently said might pose suffocation hazards to infants under the age of one year. The CPSC made crib safety its top priority, going so far as to ban dangerous drop-side cribs and issuing a warning to parents to not use “sleep positioners”; the agency has since had its eye on bumpers.

The CPSC also, said the Journal previously, probed 28 infant deaths in which bumpers were present, but not blamed. The Chicago Tribune previously pointed out that 17 deaths were not investigated in which bumpers were present and, in many cases in which bumpers were present, but not implicated, the babies’ faces were pressed into the bumpers. “There should be nothing in the crib but the baby,” said Rachel Moon previously, quoted the Journal.

SIDS is described as the death of a baby—after a full probe—that remains unexplained. Some 2,500 babies die from SIDS annually. About 500 deaths in 2004 were linked to suffocation, according to a 2009 study published in Pediatrics, said the Journal.

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