How to Keep Baby Sleeping Safely
As a parent, you want your baby to sleep well, but it’s equally important that they sleep safely. Safe sleep habits can help safeguard babies from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which includes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths so it’s important for new parents and even experienced caregivers to familiarize themselves with current safety guidelines.
It may sound overwhelming at first, but the basic safety tips for sleeping babies are pretty straightforward. Simple actions can have a big impact. Here’s what you need to know to help keep your baby both safe and comfortable while they sleep.
Where Babies Should Sleep
Odds are good that you have a lot of questions about the safest way to put your baby to bed. Are blankets ok? What about co-sleeping? Does the baby have to sleep on its back? Take a look at these safe sleep recommendations for babies from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Same room, different bed
Keeping your baby nearby during the first six months of life may decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as half. It also makes middle-of-the-night comforting and feeding much more convenient, particularly for parents who are nursing. The NIH advises against sharing a bed with your baby (also known as co-sleeping). Babies with their own sleep space are at lower risk for injury and death from situations like an adult accidentally rolling over them.
Use a bassinet or crib
Always put your baby to sleep in a bassinet, crib, or playard. Don’t allow your baby to sleep anywhere else, including an adult bed, sofa, bean bag chair, or an inclined sleeper. If your baby falls asleep in their car seat, carrier, stroller, or swing, move them to a safe sleep space as soon as possible. In addition, the AAP recommends observing the following guidelines when it comes to your baby’s sleep space:
- Your baby’s sleep surface should not indent when your baby is lying on it.
- Any surface that inclines more than 10 degrees isn't safe for your baby to sleep on.
- Make sure your mattress is designed for your specific crib and that it fits snuggly.
- Use a fitted sheet only—nothing else should be in the crib with your baby.
- Make sure your baby’s bed meets the most recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines.
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How Babies Should Sleep
The AAP has the following recommendations when it comes to how your baby should sleep:
Always put babies to sleep on their back
Place infants on their backs for all naps and night sleep on a firm, flat surface in their own sleep space with no other people. Avoid the side position as it allows your baby to roll more easily onto their stomach. Some caregivers are concerned that babies will choke when they're on their backs. However, the baby's airway anatomy and gag reflex will prevent that from happening. Even infants with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should sleep flat on their backs. When your baby is one year old or is comfortable rolling both back to tummy and tummy to back, it’s no longer necessary to place them on their backs for sleep.
To help with motor development and prevent flat head syndrome, babies should receive adult-supervised awake tummy time each day. Start with short increments of time soon as soon as your baby is born. Slowly increase the time until your infant has at least 15 to 30 minutes of tummy time each day by the time they're seven weeks old.
No loose bedding or soft objects in baby’s sleep space
Keep pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals out of the baby’s bed, though, as they pose a suffocation risk if your baby accidentally rolls into these items. If you’re concerned your little one is too cold at night, opt for a wearable blanket (also called a sleep sack or sleep bag).
Ergobaby's On The Move Sleep Bag is a 2-IN-1 wearable blanket made with ultra-soft and breathable cotton that keeps your baby cozy and snug both while asleep and out of bed. The Sleep Bag features adjustable shoulder snaps for easy on and off, while the two-way zipper is amazing for quick diaper changes.
Crib bumpers are not only unsafe but have been prohibited by the federal government as part of the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021. Bumpers are especially dangerous to younger infants as they pose a strangulation and suffocation risk. Older babies and toddlers may use them as steps to crawl out of the crib. There’s also little evidence that they actually stop crib injuries.
Keep baby from overheating
The chance of SIDS increases when a baby is overheated. Babies need only one more layer than an adult would wear in order to be comfortable in the same space. Observe your baby for symptoms of overheating, such as a hot chest, flushed skin, or sweating. Avoid putting a hat on the baby indoors.
Avoid smoke and nicotine use
Secondhand smoke significantly increases the risk of SIDS, so avoid exposing your baby to any kind of smoke, even if you’re outside. This includes vaping and electronic cigarettes, which also contain nicotine. Remove secondhand smoke in any areas your baby and other nonsmokers spend time, including your car and home. If you're a smoker or you smoked during pregnancy, it's especially critical that you don't share your bed share with the baby. The risk of SIDS is especially elevated, even when the smoker doesn't smoke in bed.
Consider using a pacifier
There’s strong evidence that giving your baby a pacifier reduces the risk of SIDS. Experts speculate that babies with pacifiers don’t sleep as deeply and can wake up more easily. It’s also possible that sucking a pacifier may open up air space around a baby's mouth and nose.
If your baby is nursing, wait until breastfeeding is established before offering a pacifier. It's alright if your infant doesn't want a pacifier. You can always try again later, but some babies just don't like them. Never hang a pacifier around your baby's neck or attach it to their clothing, especially when they're sleeping.
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If you're nursing, continue for as long as possible
Research indicates that human milk reduces the risk of SIDS. The longer you breastfeed, the more protection it offers. Nursing for two to four months cuts the risk of SIDS by 40 percent, and nursing for four to six months can reduce SIDS risk by 60 percent.
Practicing these basic sleep safety tips for babies can be lifesaving. By using these expert-recommended safety guidelines, you and your little one can rest easy.
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