Infants should be sleeping in the same room as their parents, but not the same bed, for at least the first six months of their lives, according to new guidelines issues by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Optimally, the recommendations state infants should sleep in the same room as parents through their first year.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says it can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, known as SIDS, by as much as 50 percent.
The academy recommends children sleep on their backs on a separate surface within the same room, such as a crib or bassinet, but never on a soft surface, armchair or couch.
The reasons behind the protective effect of room-sharing, but not bed sharing are not fully understood.
An estimated 3,500 babies die from SIDS and other sleep-related complications in the United States each year.
Some sleep experts say the new, longer recommendations raise concerns.
"I was a little bit surprised," said Susan Hines, a pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in sleep medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado.
Hines said they have known for years that infants sleeping in the same room as their parents but on a separate surface have a lower risk of SIDS, but the one-year recommendation is longer than expected.
"I feel like the first few months is reasonable. I"m not sure about the first year of life," said Hines. "Sometimes you can develop bad behaviors by having your child sleep in the same room as you, because they’re aware that you’re there, so when you try to get them in their own room to sleep they have difficulties."
Eileen Henry, a Boulder child sleep consultant who wrote "Compassionate Sleep Solutions," said she will still recommend room-sharing for babies up to about four months, but after that, she has concerns about the conservative guidelines.
"I don’t think parents need one more thing to feel guilty about," said Henry. "I think the best thing for a parent to do is trust themselves to know their child and when in doubt ask their pediatrician."