Sleep is essential to human health regardless of age, but infants require extra sleep to support essential initial growth. Science has stepped in to determine the best ways to give infants a chance at peaceful slumber; studies have been done on amount of sleep, sleep cycles in a given day, the type of bed, positions of sleep, and bed-sharing (bringing baby to sleep with the parents). Most studies are done to ensure that infants wake up rested and ready for the next few hours of play. However, others are done to ensure that infants are not in danger as they sleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is perhaps the greatest fear of new parents, so any new method of infant sleep should be fully understood.
The Danger of SIDS
An article posted on Mother Nature Network on 11 December 2017 presented new findings on the use of sheepskin for infant bedding. It has plenty of benefits, but an experiment conducted at the University of Auckland in New Zealand warns against its use in some cases after finding a correlation between prone sleeping on sheepskin and SIDS. Additionally, Johns Hopkins University discussed SIDS with aid from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to better understand why prone sleeping itself is not recommended. By combining this research, it can be determined that babies are safe sleeping on sheepskin as long as they remain in a supine position (on their backs).
The Advantages of Sheepskin
Sheepskin was introduced after the European Respiratory Society International Congress acknowledged that sleeping on animal skin decreases one’s chance of developing asthma. It was also found that animal skin has “microscopic organisms” to which an exposed baby will build up immunity. In multiple ways, babies placed on sheepskin get stronger as they sleep. Additionally, sheepskin adjusts well to multiple temperatures. Since sheepksin is a natural insulator, it helps keep babies cool on warm nights and warm on cool nights.
Sheepskin Mattress Pads and SIDS Prevention
Although the AAP recommends a tight sheet stretched over a firm mattress as an “optimal” sleeping surface for infants, this recommendation is more concerned about controlling sleep position through the night. If you are concerned about your child rolling over on a sheepskin mattress pad, steer clear of crib bumpers, which actually increase the risk of SIDS. Your child should be fine on a sheepskin mattress pad alone, but supplementing with an alternative mesh bumper like the “Breathable Baby” can be helpful for peace of mind.
Therefore, according to the Department of Paediatrics [sic] at the University of Auckland, as well as the APP, it is primarily important to lay an infant to sleep in a supine position. Though the Department of Paediatrics does not warn against the safety of lateral sleeping, the APP believes infants are likely to roll onto their stomachs and suffocate. Comprehensively, parents should put their infant to rest on sheepskin for a comfortable night’s sleep and enjoy the benefits as long as they are placed on their backs.