Infants should sleep in the same room as parents to lower the risk of sleep-related deaths, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement released Monday.

The professional group, which offers guidance on child rearing, now advises that newborns share their parents' bedroom, sleeping on a separate, firm surface such as a crib or bassinet, for at least the first six months of life and, ideally, the first full year.

Such room-sharing lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, by as much as 50%, the academy found.

The academy’s statement stresses that parents never place infants on a soft surface such as a couch or cushioned chair, instead recommending a firm, bare surface covered with a tight-fitting sheet – no blankets, pillows or soft toys.

Infants should not share a bed with parents or rest on soft bedding intended for adults.

Approximately 3,500 infants die each year from sleep-related deaths in the United States, the organization said. Such fatalities include SIDS, accidental suffocation and strangulation.

Infants remain at an increased risk for SIDS during their first 1 to 4 months of life, the academy noted, though soft bedding, which can lead to accidental strangulation, poses a threat to newborns over 4 months.

“We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep,” said Dr. Rachel Moon.

Moon served as lead author for the report, titled “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment.”

The report, which will appear in next month’s issue of Pediatrics, marks the first update to the academy’s policy since 2011.