safe sleep

How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe

Learn About Safe Sleep Practices for Babies

As a new parent, one of the most important topics to learn about is how to keep your sleeping baby safe. Newborns spend on average 14-17 hours a day sleeping, but those sleep periods are brief and can easily lead to sleep deprivation for parents. Knowing about safe sleep practices for babies can greatly reduce the risk of infant mortality due to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or accidental suffocation. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has several guidelines on how to keep your sleeping baby safe. Read on to learn the most up-to-date safe sleep practices for babies from birth up to one year old. 

Back to Sleep

For the first year of life, babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs. Once your baby can master rolling both from front-to-back and back-to-front, you should still place them on their back to sleep, but it’s okay to let them sleep on their tummy if they so choose. 

Firm, Flat Sleep Surface

Babies should be placed to sleep on a flat, firm sleep surface such as a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard. There should be no gaps between the mattress and the crib or bassinet itself. Nothing but a tight-fitting sheet should be on the mattress – no stuffed toys, loose blankets, or pillows. Babies can sleep in a sleep sack or swaddle blanket for warmth. 

Room Environment

Overheating is dangerous for babies. Generally, babies need only one additional layer than what you’re wearing to bed, such as one-piece pajamas and a sleep sack. Once your baby is learning to roll, stop swaddling with arms-in. The room should be kept at 68°-72° F with good airflow, such as a fan to circulate the air. 

Avoid Bedsharing

Bedsharing is not recommended for babies under the age of one. If you plan to comfort or feed your baby in your bed, it’s highly recommended to remove extra pillows and blankets ahead of time should you accidentally fall asleep with your baby. Think of it as putting on your seat belt – you never plan to crash, but you wear a seatbelt each time you drive just in case an accident happens. 

Bedsharing is particularly dangerous for premature or low birth weight babies, newborns under 4 months of age, babies of parents who smoke or who smoked during pregnancy, and babies of parents who drink alcohol or take medication that promotes drowsiness. Never doze off with your baby in a waterbed or other soft surface such as a couch or armchair. 

If you’re having trouble staying awake during nighttime care, ask for help from a family member or consider hiring an overnight newborn care professional. 

Do Room Share

While bedsharing is considered unsafe, room-sharing has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. Keep your baby’s crib or bassinet in your room, near your bed but without risk of blankets or pillows falling onto their sleep surface. Room-sharing is recommended for the first 6-12 months after birth. 

Offer a Pacifer

Pacifiers have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. Offer your baby a pacifier at nap and nighttime. If the pacifier falls out and baby remains asleep, there’s no need to replace it. 

Make Healthy Choices

In addition to the safe sleep environment tips above, certain lifestyle choices can also reduce the risk of infant mortality. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce incidences of infant mortality. Avoid smoking, alcohol, and illicit drugs during pregnancy and after baby is born. Attend all well-visits and immunize your baby per the CDC’s immunization schedule. Offer your baby lots of tummy time during the day, to strengthen their core muscles and help them meet developmental milestones. 

Certain baby products, such as home heart rate or breathing monitors or baby mattresses claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, these products have not been shown to reduce infant mortality. If you’re uncertain which products are right for your family, talk with your pediatrician. 

Parental Support Improves Safe Sleep Practices for Babies

Sleep deprivation is common among new parents, and can make daily tasks difficult to perform safely. Consider hiring a professional to assist with overnight newborn care. Well-rested parents make smarter decisions. With support and education, knowing how to keep your sleeping baby safe during their first year of life becomes second nature.