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Newborn sleep safety: Preventing SIDS in your home

December 09, 2013

When you have a newborn, one of the most frequent concerns and topics of conversations among new parents centers around getting the baby to sleep. And when it comes to getting a baby to sleep, there is no shortage of advice offered by family members and strangers alike, products to buy to make sleep easier and advertisements to convince you of your need for these things. 

When we talk about babies and sleep, though, let’s not forget the most important consideration: safety.

What is SIDS and how does it relate to baby’s sleep?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the third most common cause of infant death and the leading cause of death for babies beyond the newborn stage (28 days to 1 year of age) in the United States. SIDS is a classification that’s given when, after a thorough investigation, the cause of an infant’s death cannot be explained.

Although SIDS can be a confusing designation since the exact cause or causes of this syndrome have yet to be fully clarified, the occurrence of SIDS is known to be closely tied to the sleep position and sleep conditions of the infant.

When we talk about babies and sleep, though, let’s not forget the most important consideration: safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers detailed recommendations to ensure you are creating a safe sleep environment for your newborn. Here are some things you should keep in mind when putting your baby to bed:

Always place babies to sleep on their backs

Infants who sleep on their tummies or on their sides are at much greater risk of death due to SIDS than infants who sleep on their backs. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs each and every time they sleep until 1 year of age. Once the child learns to roll over, if he rolls to his side or tummy on his own during sleep, you don’t need to reposition him. However, continue placing him on his back at the outset of sleep.

Be sure your crib meets current safety standards

If possible use a new crib, as older cribs may not meet current safety guidelines. Use a firm mattress that fits snugly inside the crib. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) guidelines to ensure that your crib meets all the current safety recommendations.

Watch this video for tips on crib safety.

Be sure the crib is free of any pillows, blankets, toys- even bumpers

Use only a fitted sheet that tightly covers the crib mattress. Do not use blankets, comforters, pillows or any other loose items in the baby’s sleep area. Infants who are exposed to soft sleep surfaces because of the use of these items are five times more likely to die of SIDS, regardless of their sleep position.

Even bumper pads which are frequently attached to the crib slats (and used for aesthetic purposes) are no longer recommended, as babies can be entrapped or suffocated by them.

Don’t allow baby to sleep on a sofa, chair, cushions or blankets

Soft sleep surfaces can dramatically increase a baby’s risk of death. The safest place for baby to sleep is on a firm surface within a crib, bassinet, play yard or portable crib.

Be sure to discuss sleep position with all childcare providers

Each person who cares for your child (even grandparents and family members) should be given specific instructions to put baby to sleep on his back. You might hear the argument from your parents or grandparents: “You slept on your stomach as a baby, and you turned out alright.” We know more now about keeping babies safe as they sleep than we did then. Don’t take the risk.

Never allow baby to sleep in bed with you

Mom Sleeping with BabyIt is recommended to sleep in the same room as your baby, but not on the same sleep surface. Consider placing a crib or bassinet in your room next to your bed. Sharing a bed with an infant increases the likelihood of suffocation, strangulation, falls, injury and death.

Don’t use sleep positioners, wedges or co-sleeping devices

Although sleep positioners and wedges are often used because of their claims to promote proper sleep positioning, help with reflux or decrease the risk of SIDS, they should not be used. The soft, compressible material from which they are made can pose the risk of suffocation and entrapment, and there is no evidence that they are protective against SIDS. The safety of co-sleeping devices also has not been established and isn’t recommended.

It may seem like there are a million “dos and donts” when it comes to your baby and sleep. And, what may have been acceptable a generation ago isn’t the standard now. Sometimes, even what was recommended with a first child is frowned upon by the time you’ve had another! If you have questions about how to make sure your newborn is safe while sleeping, be sure to ask your pediatrician. Knowing all of the current safety information will help your baby (and you!) sleep more soundly.


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