Making sure your baby is safe during sleep is one of the biggest concerns for parents and can often lead to our own struggles with sleep as we worry about whether or not our babies are safe.
Rest is just as important for you as a parent and by following these safe sleep guidelines you just might have an easier time relaxing and feeling more at ease, knowing your baby is safe and sound.
Place your baby on a firm surface in a crib or bassinet for sleep
Although there are many places your baby might be able to sleep (the swing, the car, in your bed, etc.) their crib or bassinet is the safest place for them to sleep. And if you’re thinking “but my baby hates the crib” there are many things you can do to help promote the crib as the only option for sleep.
Make sure your baby's room temperature isn't too hot or cold
In the winter months, we have a tendency to over bundle our babies, when all they really need is a long sleeve onesie and a sleep sack/swaddle. And as long as your baby’s room is set between 68-72 degrees fahrenheit, the temperature outside doesn’t actually matter as much! In the summer months make sure you are controlling the temperature with fans or a/c so your baby doesn’t overheat, which is one of the leading causes of SIDS.
Always put baby on their back to sleep
Even when your baby is able to roll over on their own, it is safest for them to sleep on their back. Once you notice your baby starts trying to roll over you should unswaddle them immediately and roll them back over, IF they are unable to do so on their own. It is ok to allow your baby to sleep on their belly if they are able to roll from back to tummy and back again, but allow them to get in that position on their own (don’t place them face down).
Room share for the first six months to 1 year but don't bed share
This tends to be a controversial topic, and although co-sleeping is practiced in many cultures outside of the United States, the AAP does not recommend co-sleeping with your baby due to the risk of SIDS. Instead keep your baby close in a bassinet or crib in your room for the first 6 months to 1 year.
Do not expose your baby to smoke
Smoking is one of the risks of SIDS and even small particles on your clothing can be passed to your baby. Your baby should especially not be sleeping in an environment where there are particles of smoke in the air. This is something that should be considered when traveling and staying in hotels or homes of friends and family members as well.
Do not put anything in your baby’s crib
Other than your baby, their swaddle/sleep sack and their pacifier nothing should be in your baby’s crib. The list of no-no's includes includes bumpers, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and, yes, even fitted sheets. As babies start to roll over and crawl, the fitted sheet can become loose and your baby can pull it off of the corners of the mattress increasing the risk of suffocation and SIDS. The moms at Nook created the SafeSleep™ crib mattress cover that zips on, eliminating the risk of suffocation or the need for fitted sheets.
Use a pacifier and/or breastfeed if possible
We know that not all moms can breastfeed and not all babies will take a pacifier, but if your baby will, we highly encourage it. Both breastfeeding and the use of a pacifier have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS and as a bonus they may help soothe your baby too!
Do not rely on monitors to replace your parental instinct.
Although monitors can be helpful to keep a close eye on your baby, they are not always 100% reliable and can sometimes prevent parents from checking on their babies. Technology is great, but don’t underestimate the power of your own instincts!
Do not use pacifiers with clips attached.
While it can be quite annoying to keep replacing your baby’s pacifier every time it falls out, it is not safe to use ones with ties or clips when your baby is sleeping.
Take your sleeping baby out of the car seat once you get home.
If your baby falls asleep in the car seat they should always be taken out when you get home and placed in their crib or bassinet. Never let a baby sleep in the car seat out of the car as it poses multiple risks even with a parent/caregiver close.
Rachel Mitchell is owner of My Sweet Sleeper, Certified Pediatric & Maternity Sleep Consultant, former night nanny and mom of six. She has had the rewarding experience of helping children sleep better for thousands of families all over the world. When she's not saving families from sleep deprivation, you can find her sipping hot coffee (half decaf), running along the beach, working in the yard and hanging out with her husband and kiddos.