Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, but unfortunately where they sleep can pose a danger to their health. Babies should always sleep in a crib on their back, with nothing else in the crib. Sleeping in an old crib or one filled with blankets, for example, can lead to a baby being injured or suffocating. Parents and caregivers can take several steps, however, to ensure their baby sleeps in a safe environment:
Keep cribs empty: Babies don’t need anything in their cribs so remove any pillows, stuffed animals, quilts or bumper pads. All have the potential to suffocate a baby if she gets her head stuck under or next to one. Infants cannot roll away from that danger. Some people think bumper pads keep babies safe, but studies show they do not prevent injury and babies may be at increased risk of suffocating if they get wedged between one and another object or get their head stuck underneath one. Don’t use a blanket or quilt to keep a baby warm, use a sleeper sack instead. It keeps the baby just as warm and there is no risk of suffocation.
Safe cribs: Make sure your crib conforms to Consumer Product Safety Commission standards and doesn’t have any missing parts. Older cribs have too much space in between the slats and babies can get their heads stuck in there. There should also be no gaps between the sides of the crib and the mattress, which should be covered with only a fitted crib sheet.
Other sleeping spots: We know babies can fall asleep in other places than their cribs, including car seats, strollers, swings or play yards. With the exception of play yards, these are not safe places for a baby to routinely sleep. Babies have poor head and neck control and it’s easy for them to slump forward or to the side, which can constrict their airways. This doesn’t mean you should wake your baby up if she falls asleep in the car on the way home from grandma’s – rather it means these locations should not be used for regular nap times or at bedtime. If your child does fall asleep in one of these spots and you don’t want to move her to a crib, please keep a close eye on her until she awakes. As for play yards, the rules for cribs apply to them as well. Make sure you use one approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and that doesn’t have any missing or broken parts.
Keep baby out of your bed and off couches: I’m a mother myself and know how tired new moms get. Sometimes, you just want to lay with your infant in your bed, especially after nursing. Please don’t do it! A study in Norway found that sleeping with your baby, especially under 3 months of age, increases their risk of death. Co-sleeping poses many dangers to babies whether it’s suffocation from bedding or an adult rolling over on them. If you want your baby in your room, please put her in a bassinet or crib near the bed. That way you can nurse and then easily return her to her sleeping spot. Remember, share the room – not the bed. I can also appreciate you want to keep your child close or she may fall asleep while you are cuddling her on the couch. Don’t put her on the couch to sleep; again, she can suffocate or fall off, or an enthusiastic sibling can accidently harm her.
Back is best: When it comes to putting a baby to sleep, put her on her back. Since the Back to Sleep initiative began in 1994, the number of infants dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS has fallen by 50 percent. SIDS is when babies stop breathing without cause while sleeping. Babies who sleep on their back are not at increased risk of choking or aspirating, even if they have reflux. Make sure everyone who cares for your infant knows she should be placed in the crib on her back.
Some parents worry a lot about SIDS so let me ease your mind by dispelling a few myths. First, there is no link between SIDS and immunizations. Instead, studies have shown immunized babies have a lower incidence of SIDS. Another myth is that using pacifiers causes SIDS; that’s also not true. If your baby falls asleep with a pacifier, don’t worry about it. Research has also shown that babies who are breastfed have a decreased risk of SIDS – yet another reason to nurse your child if you are able.
Getting enough sleep is essential to your child’s health. By putting her to sleep on her back in an environment free of potential suffocation objects, you’ll sleep better too knowing she’s in a safe place.