Since babies sleep unsupervised, it is vital that their safety be thoroughly considered when putting them to bed. When ensuring your baby’s sleep safety, it’s important to consider the space she is sleeping in, the environment she is sleeping in and what she is sleeping in. It’s also important to be knowledgeable of the precautions you can take to prevent injury or death while your baby is in his sleep area.
Identifying a Safe Sleep Space
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a close but separate place. A crib or bassinet in your room is a safe option. Moms who prefer to co-sleep may find a co-sleeper a good option. A co-sleeper attaches to the side of an adult bed allowing for easy access to the baby for nighttime feedings. If you’re using a crib, be sure it meets current crib safety guidelines as outlined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Whether you choose a bassinet, crib or co-sleeper, your baby’s sleep surface should be firm and should be covered by a single fitted sheet. When placing your baby in his sleep space, there should be no loose bedding that can pose a suffocation risk. Toys, stuffed animals and other items can also pose a suffocation or strangulation risk.
Back to Sleep
The safest position for your baby to sleep is on her back. Years ago, parents were instructed to place their babies on their stomachs to sleep, but this is no longer the case. In 1994, the Back to Sleep Campaign was started to educate parents and caregivers on the importance of placing babies to sleep on their backs. Placing your baby to sleep on his back reduces his risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. The Back to Sleep Campaign is sponsored by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics, First Candle/SIDS Alliance and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs. Since the campaign started, overall SIDS rates have dropped by more than 50 percent.
The fit and the fabric your baby’s sleepwear is made of is important to consider when choosing what to put your baby to sleep in. Babies should sleep in sleepwear that fits snugly or is made of flame-resistant materials. These guidelines are aimed to help to limit the risk of injury should your baby be in a fire. According to Consumer Reports, to meet government standards, flame-resistant sleepwear must not easily ignite and must self-extinguish quickly when removed from a flame. Snug-fitting sleepwear prevents air from accumulating between the clothing and the skin, reducing the risk that your baby will have his skin come in contact with flame during a fire.
Preventing Crib Injury Death
Parents can take precautionary steps to prevent crib injury and death. In addition to placing their babies to sleep on their backs, parents can help prevent the risk of SIDS by preventing overheating. To prevent overheating, dress your baby in lightweight sleepwear and keep the thermostat set at no higher than 70 degrees F. SIDS can also be prevented by offering your baby a pacifier when placing him in his sleep space and by keeping your home a smoke-free environment. To avoid strangulation, don’t tie anything to the crib. If you are using a crib mobile, be sure it’s removed once your baby is mobile. You’ll also want to be sure that any window blind cords that are near your baby’s crib are secured out of reach. When choosing a crib, be sure there are no cutouts in the headboard or footboard that are potential places of entrapment. You’ll also want to be sure your baby’s crib slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent your baby from getting caught between them. Instead of loose blankets that can pose a suffocation risk, opt for a sleep sack to keep your baby covered safely.
Misconceptions About Safe Sleep
Some parents are often afraid to put their babies to sleep on their backs because they are afraid they will choke. Healthy babies cough and swallow fluids automatically. Putting a baby to sleep on his back puts him at no increased risk for choking. Many parents also believe that their babies need to be dressed warmly while sleeping. Dressing your baby in too many layers or in too heavy of clothing can actually make your baby too hot and cause him to overheat. With the concern of SIDS, many parents get a sense of security by using products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, most these products have not been tested for their safety or their effectiveness.