One of the most important things every parent should know is how to keep their baby safe while sleeping.
Infants spend up to 16 hours sleeping every day. It’s critical for their growth and development.
Whether you’re expecting your first child or your third, make sure your baby’s sleep habits and environment do not pose any health risks. Tragically, nearly 3,500 infants die every year from unsafe sleep practices. These deaths include sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. Many of these deaths may have been preventable, federal health authorities say.
You can help keep your baby safe while sleeping by following these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Back to sleep.
Place your baby on his or her back for all sleep times – including naps – until their first birthday. Babies who sleep on their backs are significantly less likely to die of SIDS than those who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
Use a firm sleep surface.
Make sure your baby’s crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard meets safety standards from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Use a tight-fitting, firm mattress and fitted sheet. If your baby falls asleep in the car seat or a swing, move them to a safe sleeping area.
Using wedges, positioners and other specialized sleep surfaces or mattresses have not been shown to lower the risk of SIDS, according to the AAP.
Share your room, but not your bed.
Sharing a room with your baby can lower the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. Put your baby’s bassinet or crib close to your bed. You can comfort and feed your baby in your bed, but make sure you put your baby back in their separate sleeping area before you fall asleep. Ideally, parents should share their room with their baby for the first year.
Resist the urge to share your bed with your baby no matter how tired you may feel. Parents can unknowingly roll onto their baby during sleep. Babies can get tangled in sheets and blankets, too.
It’s uncertain whether bedside sleepers or in-bed sleepers should be used. At this time, the AAP says more studies need to be done.
Keep loose bedding and soft objects out of your baby’s sleep area.
The only thing that should be in the crib or bassinet you use is your baby. Pillows, quilts, comforters, blankets, toys, bumper pads and other similar items can increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation and strangulation. If you’re worried that your baby is cold, look for infant sleep clothing.
Breastfeed your baby.
Health experts recommend breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for a baby for the first six months. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of SIDS. Take a breastfeeding class before your baby arrives to learn how to help your baby latch on properly. If you have trouble breastfeeding, consult a lactation consultant for guidance.
Give a pacifier for naps and bedtime.
Using a pacifier can help lower the risk of SIDS. It’s OK if the pacifier falls out while your baby is asleep, too. If you’re breastfeeding, do not offer a pacifier until feedings are going smoothly. This may take a few weeks.
Do not smoke or drink alcohol while pregnant or after your baby is born.
Keep your baby away from people smoking and from secondhand smoke, which can increase the risk of SIDS. Opening a window or using ventilation does not prevent secondhand smoke from covering surfaces. Do not allow people to smoke in your car.
While drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects, drinking after your baby arrives can pose problems, too. Alcohol can make you drowsy and put your baby at risk.
+ You can learn more about caring for your newborn through Bon Secours Love & Learn prenatal and parenting classes.