ROANOKE, Va. -

Medical experts and parents over the years have questioned what the best method is to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

WDBJ7 talks to Vanessa Hedge, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Carilion Clinic Children's Hospital. She, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends room-sharing as the best solution.

According to KidsHealth.org, SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant who is younger than 1 year old. It can strike without warning, usually in seemingly healthy babies. The site also says it's the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old, and claims nearly 2,500 lives each year in the U.S.

One method the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to reduce the chances of SIDS is room-sharing. Room-sharing means babies sleep in the same room as their parents, but have their own sleeping space, whether in a crib, bassinet or Pack-and-Play. Parents are within an arm's reach of their baby, and can still monitor, listen and nurse.

Bed-sharing has become somewhat common, though many recent health experts advise against it. Hedge warns that bed-sharing can be incredibly risky. Bed-sharing means parents sleep with their baby in an adult bed. Hedge says parents run the risk of rolling on top of the infant during sleep. Babies can also accidentally suffocate from leaning up against blankets or pillows.

Some argue that bed-sharing can be therapeutic. KidsHealth.org shows some say that bed-sharing can encourage breast-feeding and make it more convenient. Advocates also argue that it helps sync the mother's and baby's sleep cycles.

Those in favor also argue bed-sharing brings families closer together.  Babycenter.com says bed-sharing can particularly enhance closeness between the father or other partner and the baby, because men don't have the physical connection that a nursing mother and her baby do.

Hedge says that ultimately, bed-sharing versus room-sharing is totally at the parents' discretion, and there is no cure as of yet for SIDS. KidsHealth.org says SIDS is unpredictable despite years of research. Possible factors do include:

  • Smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy
  • Poor prenatal care
  • Prematurity or low birth weight
  • Mothers younger than 20
  • Tobacco smoke exposure following birth
  • Overheating from excessive sleepwear and bedding
  • Stomach sleeping

When putting a baby to sleep, Hedge says it's important for babies to sleep on their backs, not stomachs. The crib should be clear of any blankets, bumper pads, toys or pillows. Hedge says a good alternative to a blanket is a sleep sack.

Lastly, Hedge says it's perfectly fine to have an infant in bed with parents, as long as they are awake and monitoring their baby. This is a chance for a mother to get close to her baby through breast feeding and be comfortable at the same time. However, Hedge says it's important to put infants back in their own sleep space once parents go to bed.