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February 06, 2020

Tips for keeping babies safe while sleeping

Children's Health Sleep

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Baby in white and blue blanket Marcin Jozwiak/

The first year of your child’s life is a magical time. There are so many firsts to enjoy: trying new foods, learning how to crawl and walk, saying first words.

It can also be a period of adjustment as you juggle around-the-clock feedings and the lack of sleep that comes with a new addition to the family.

Despite what it may feel like, your baby will be doing a lot of sleeping during this first year, especially the first six months, so it is important to follow certain precautions to keep your baby safe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies, one year old and younger, sleep on their backs on a firm surface like a crib mattress with only a fitted sheet to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of death, including accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.

Understanding SIDS

According to the Mayo Clinic, infants between the ages of two and four months of age appear to have the greatest risk for SIDS — the unexplainable death of a seemingly healthy baby.

While there are no known causes, researchers have found that there are certain risk factors associated with SIDS: low birth weight, premature birth, having a respiratory infection and living with a smoker. Being born into a family with a history of SIDS or being a twin or triplet can also play a role.

As a mom, your age when pregnant and the kind of prenatal care you receive are also important because pregnant women younger than 20 and those who receive poor prenatal care are more likely to have a child die from SIDS.

Before you panic though, there are ways you can help reduce your child’s risk. Breast-feeding and proper immunization offer protective effects and sharing a room — not a bed — until your child turns one cuts the risk of SIDS in half. The American Academy of Pediatrics says this makes it easier to feed, comfort and watch over your baby as well.

Putting your infant to sleep safely

Experts say that putting your baby to sleep in a safe environment can reduce not only the risk of SIDS, but also other sleep-related causes of infant death. Following these tips will help you and your baby sleep more soundly:

  1. Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep. Remind any babysitters or caregivers to do the same.
  2. Never share a bed with your infant, but do share a room. Only let your baby sleep in safety-approved cribs, bassinets and play yards or “pack ’n plays” that follow the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  3. Never put your baby down to sleep on adult beds, waterbeds, couches or chairs. Mayo Clinic experts warn that adult mattresses are not safe because a baby can get trapped and suffocated between the mattress and the bed frame or by a sleeping parent accidentally rolling over on him or her.
  4. Make sure the crib mattress is firm, and don’t add pillows or stuffed animals or toys to the crib. Fluffy blankets and crib bumpers can also interfere with your baby’s breathing.
  5. Instead of blankets, dress your baby in a sleep sack or other types of clothing that will keep him or her warm without overheating.
  6. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises against the use of monitors and other commercial devices that might claim to reduce the risk of SIDS because of safety issues.
  7. Never smoke or let anyone else smoke around your baby.
  8. Never put anything on your baby’s head or face during sleep.
  9. Try giving your baby a pacifier for naps and to sleep at night.

Feeding your baby in bed

Many moms like to do late night feedings from bed, but as soon as your baby is fed and burped lay her back in her crib. Having the crib right by your bed will make it more convenient to do so. Try not to fall back to sleep while holding your baby in bed. If you do, as soon as you wake up, put her back in the crib.

What about Tummy Time?

While sleeping on the back is the safest for your baby, tummy time is also important. Try to schedule a couple of sessions a day because it helps prevent flat spots on the back of the head and helps your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles grow stronger. As your baby grows older, time spent on the tummy also helps with learning to sit up, roll over, crawl and walk.

Learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for safe sleeping for babies here.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.

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