You spend so much time preparing for the birth of your baby and bringing them home to secure surroundings. You have patiently and carefully read every article and checked that their furniture, toys, clothes and every object they touch is safe for them in their waking hours. It is just as important to be educated about keeping them safe during the time they are sleeping.
Unfortunately, SIDS is still an all too common risk for parents. SIDS is a sudden and silent medical disorder that can happen to an infant who seems healthy. SIDS is sometimes called "crib death" or "cot death" because it is associated with the time when the baby is sleeping. Cribs themselves do not cause SIDS, but the baby's sleep environment can influence sleep-related causes of death. SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age.
The good news is SIDS rates for the United States have dropped steadily since 1994 in all racial and ethnic groups. Thousands of infant lives have been saved by practicing infant safe sleep practices. ( Safe to Sleep, US Department of Health and Human Services, 2023 version 4.3.0). Read on to learn how to practice infant safe sleep and keep your baby sleeping soundly.
What are the Current Infant Safe Sleep Recommendations?
Infant safe sleep recommendations have changed over time and it’s important to keep updated on what they are and to share them with your partner and any caretakers who will be around your infant.
The most current infant safe sleep recommendations are as follows:
- Your baby should sleep alone in their crib or bassinet on a firm, flat mattress with a sheet that fits snugly.
- Make sure there is no clutter inside their sleep space- no blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, stuffed animals or other objects.
- If your baby needs comforting or to be fed, you may bring your baby into your bed.
However, it is very important to return your baby to its safe sleep space before you go back to sleep.
SIDS and Sleep-Related Incidents + How to Lower the Risk of SIDS
SIDS is every parent’s worst nightmare. Lower your baby’s risk of SIDs by following the most current suggestions below:
- If you can, breastfeed your baby. Babies who breastfeed, or are fed breastmilk, are at a lower risk for SIDS than babies who were never fed breastmilk.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and using marijuana or illegal drugs during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
- Do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
- Avoid overheating. Do not over bundle and make sure to dress your baby in the appropriate sleep clothing. Avoid use of head coverings and hats while indoors.
- Take your baby to regular well-baby visits and stay updated on vaccines.
- Practice tummy time with baby.
4 Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Safely
As the clock ticks closer to baby’s bedtime, keep these four bedtime tips in mind:
How Do I Swaddle My Baby?
Another important practice at bedtime is swaddling. When your baby is born, a nurse may have swaddled them. Swaddling, wrapping a baby up in blankets, can simulate the womb environment, which can comfort your little one. Skills like this are often covered in Childbirth Education Courses or can be demonstrated for you by your nurse.
How to Swaddle Your Infant:
- Spread your blanket flat in front of you like a diamond.
- Fold the top corner down to meet the center of the blanket.
- Lay your baby on their back on top of the blanket, with their head above the folded corner.
- Straighten their left arm, wrap the left corner over their body, and tuck it in their right armpit.
- Tuck their right arm down and fold the right corner of the blanket over their body and under their left side.
- Fold the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one baby’s side.
Check to make sure their hips and legs can move freely when you are finished. You will also want to check that the blanket is not too tight. You can do this by placing two or three fingers between your baby’s chest and the swaddling blanket.
When your baby starts trying to roll over, it is time to stop swaddling.
Baby Sleep Products –What to Avoid
While a good swaddle is a must-have on your baby registry, there are certain items that do not promote safe sleep. The following items are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for infant safe sleep and should be avoided:
- Crib Bumpers
- Inclined Infant Sleeper Products (these may be called nests, docks, pods, loungers, rockers or nappers)
- Any infant bed sharing products
Your baby should sleep by themselves, without any bumpers, soft bedding, pillows or stuffed toys. Your baby does not need many things to sleep safely.
A happy, well-slept baby equals happy (and hopefully, well-slept) parents. If you have any questions regarding infant safe sleep, please speak with your baby’s pediatrician.
Please take a minute to check out these important resources on safe sleep: