How to Get Your Little One Snoozing Safely

Father putting his infant child to sleep safely

Welcoming a new baby can be overwhelming. It seems there are so many things you should and shouldn’t do. Baby sleep needs are one of the many aspects that can be frustrating, not to mention confusing. There are tons of products for purchase, but the truth is you don’t need much. Jessica LaCroix, injury prevention program coordinator with UnityPoint Health, helps answer the most important questions in hopes you can get your little one to safely sleep through the night.

Why is It Important to Focus on Safe Sleep in Relation to SIDS?

SIDS is sudden infant death syndrome. It’s the most common cause of death in children 1 year old and under. SIDS is unpredictable and unpreventable, but we know following safe sleep practices can help reduce the risk.

What is Safe Sleep?

Safe sleep for infants includes all the things you should be doing to keep little ones safe while they sleep. The most important thing to remember is always putting little ones to sleep on their backs on a firm, flat sleep surface of their own. This can be a crib, bassinet or pack and play. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends baby should share a room with parents until the age of 1, but at least for the first six months. The AAP says room-sharing, while baby is on his/her own sleep surface, decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

Are Crib Bumpers Safe?

Crib bumpers, even the mesh bumpers, are not a recommended item. They can cause suffocation, if baby comes too close. They can also cause strangulation, if baby gets between the crib and the mesh guard itself. If we think about it, bumper pads were created when cribs used to have wider slats in order to keep babies from becoming trapped in the slots. Now, JPMA regulations require manufacturers to keep those slats closer together.

What About Stuffed Animals and/or Blankets?

Stuffed animals and blankets seem very comfortable for baby, but really, those pose a suffocation risk.  If baby were to roll too close to those, he/she could suffocate even if the items don’t completely cover the mouth. Babies just don’t breathe the way we do. If adults come too close to something, we change the way we breathe to make up for it. Babies can’t do that just yet, so we need to remove all items from the crib.

What About Using Pacifiers?

Having your baby sleep with a pacifier is recommended in order to help reduce the chance of SIDS. However, the pacifiers with stuffed animals attached are not recommended for overnight. Only use those items when someone is supervising baby, otherwise the stuffed toy could pose a suffocation risk.

Can I Use a Wedge in the Crib?

No, an infant sleeping wedge, Boppy or any other infant sleep positioners pose the risk of suffocation. Again, besides a fitted sheet, nothing should be in your baby’s sleep space.

When Can I Introduce Items for My Baby’s Bed?

The AAP recommends not introducing an infant sleeping pillow or blanket until the age of 2. If you’re going to introduce a small blanket, stuffed animal or a “lovey,” it’s best to wait until 18 months.

How Do I Keep My Baby Warm?

Use a wearable blanket or footie pajamas. This is best because it’s keeping everything away from the mouth and nose. Experts recommend using wearable blankets, like a baby sleep sack, over traditional swaddling because babies can break free of a swaddle when you’re not watching and then the blanket can go over their mouth and nose. Some wearable blankets come with a swaddle, if your baby likes feeling more tightly wrapped. Also, baby does not need a hat inside after leaving the hospital.

Is There a Best Temperature for a Sleeping Baby?

Keeping your baby’s room at 68-72 degree Fahrenheit is ideal. You don’t want your baby to become too warm because that increases the risk of SIDS. Try not to layer baby too much either, so he/she doesn’t overheat.

Can I Swaddle My Baby with a Blanket?

Only use a traditional swaddle when you are awake and watching your baby. During overnight and naptime, always follow safe sleep practices. These include putting baby on his/her back to sleep and never the tummy, using a bare flat surface and a tight fitting sheet, nothing else.

When Should I Stop Swaddling My Baby?

If you’re using a wearable blanket with a swaddle, it’s best to stop swaddling when babies can roll over on their own because they could roll over and become stuck, since their arms are not free. This typically happens between four and six months of age.

Can I Use My Rock ‘n Play for Overnight Sleep?

Rock ‘n Plays are considered a “container,” like a car seat or bouncy seat. We already know it’s not safe for a baby to sleep unsupervised in a car seat, and the same is true with a Rock ‘n Play and swing. Even though it may say overnight sleep on the box, Rock ‘n Plays haven’t been tested for that purpose and shouldn’t be used unless baby is being supervised.

Can I Use an Old Crib at a Relative’s Home?

Tell them you’re bringing your own pack and play, and baby is used to sleeping in that. If they insist and you know their crib doesn’t meet standards because it has large slots or drop sides, print off some resources to share with the family member about new safe sleep guidelines. Most new cribs you encounter in stores will meet JPMA standards.

Why is It Important to Avoid Falling Asleep in a Chair/Couch with Baby?

It’s not safe for a baby to sleep on you in a chair because you could fall asleep. First off, when baby sleeps on you, he/she is often on his/her tummy, which poses a risk for suffocation. It’s always best for little ones to sleep on their backs. If you fall asleep, you could drop the baby or baby could wiggle into an unsafe position and get stuck, closing off the airway. It’s best to ask for help from friends and family during those early weeks. Another option is to take shifts. That way, you could sleep for a few hours and then trade with another responsible adult in the home.

When Can Babies Sleep On Their Stomachs?

As children get older, your baby will likely flip onto his/her belly as they become stronger. It’s important you are still following safe sleep practices, such as using a firm mattress with a tight fitting sheet, making sure nothing else is in the crib, using wearable blankets and refrain from swaddling now that your child can roll. Even though your child is rolling to his/her tummy on his/her own, it is important you are still in the habit of placing your baby to sleep on his/her back every time you set them in the crib, since this is the safest infant sleeping position. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

What are Ways to Help Soothe My Little One to Sleep?

There are numerous different tips for how to get an infant to sleep. Swaddling with a wearable blanket can be helpful. Some parents find a sound machine or white noise to be helpful. Also, use the resources your doctor provides. If you’re struggling, call your clinic for advice.

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