Keep Baby Safe at Bed and Nap Time
I’ll never forget looking down at him that warm summer evening. As the moon rose, I was overwhelmingly burdened by a sense of responsibility matched only by feelings of irrepressible love and nervous humility. It had been just a few hours since we spent, what seemed like, an hour making sure he was properly secured in his car seat for the short drive home. We arrived safely even though I don’t think I even came within five miles per hour of the actually posted speed limit and drove more cautiously than my grandfather on a Sunday afternoon drive. Yet as he lay sleeping in his brand new crib on freshly laundered sheets, I could not help but reflect upon the faceless news and Internet articles which told the nightmares, the real-life stories, of fathers and mothers just like me who awoke to discover the lifeless body of their precious little miracle.
Some ten years later and with three more babies to call my own, I don’t think or worry about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as I did that first night. In fact, I don’t think SIDS, the leading cause of death in babies between one and twelve months, ever crossed my mind when we brought my youngest daughter home. It was not that I loved her any less than her big brother, but I had simply become more lax in my conscious awareness of the very real risk of death. My parenting experience had inflated my confidence. Such overconfidence broods risky behavior and that’s when nightmares get shared in news stories.
For over 75 years, March of Dimes, a leader in the research, funding, and advocacy against infant mortality, has valiantly sought to reduce the risks to infants and newborns everywhere. Most recently, March of Dimes-funded research has developed protocols for lowering a baby’s chances of succumbing to SIDS or other sleep related dangers. These protocols have helped to significantly reduce the number of deaths to newborns and infants. March of Dimes suggests that parents can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep related dangers by: putting their baby to sleep in a safe place, putting their baby to sleep in a safe manner, and giving their baby the greatest chances of survival through proper care.
NOTE: The lawyer in me requires a caution that, as with everything in life, these guidelines should not take the place of proper medical care and advice; many babies may have unique situations which make strict adherence to these guidelines inappropriate or even dangerous.
Where to put your baby to sleep
- Put your baby to sleep on his back on a flat, firm surface, like a crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib so there are no spaces between the mattress and the crib frame. The mattress shape should stay firm even when covered with a fitted sheet or mattress cover.
- Use a bassinet, crib or play yard that meets current safety standards. Don’t use cribs with drop-side rails. Don’t try to fix a crib that has broken or missing parts. Visit U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to learn more about product safety standards or product recalls.
- Keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and other soft objects out of your baby’s crib. They put babies in danger of getting trapped, strangled or suffocating. If your baby sleeps in your bed, never place pillows, comforters, quilts or other soft items beneath your baby, nor on top of him.
- Share your bedroom with your baby but not your bed. Co-sleeping means that babies and parents sleep together in the same bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CPSC warn that babies should not co-sleep with their parents. Instead, put your baby to bed in his own crib or bassinet. Keep it close to your bed so your baby’s nearby during the night.
- If you put your baby to sleep in your bed, never leave him alone. Don’t put him to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or other soft surface. Portable bed rails don’t always prevent a baby from rolling out of bed. Babies can get stuck in these devices and choke. Cover the mattress with a tight-fitting sheet. The mattress should fit snugly in the bed frame so that there are no spaces around your headboard or footboard. Check that there are no spaces between the bed and the wall or other furniture.
- Don’t let your baby sleep in his carrier or sling, car seat or stroller. Babies who sleep in these items can suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in one of them, take her out and to her crib as soon as you can.
- Remove any hanging window cords or electrical wires near where your baby sleeps. Babies can get tangled in them and choke.
How to put your baby to sleep
- Put your baby to sleep on her back every time, until she’s 1 year old. It’s not safe for babies to sleep on their side or tummy. If your baby can roll over from her back to her side or tummy, and over to her back again, don’t worry if she changes positions while sleeping.
- Dress your baby in light sleep clothes. Remove any strings or ties from his pajamas and keep his head uncovered. A blanket sleeper can keep your baby warm without covering his head or face. Keep the room at a temperature that’s comfortable for you. If your baby is sweating or his chest feels hot, he may be overheated.
- Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. AAP recommends that if you’re breastfeeding, wait until your baby is 1 month old before using a pacifier. If your baby won’t take a pacifier, don’t force it. It’s OK if the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth during sleep. Don’t hang the pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach the pacifier to your baby’s clothing or a stuffed animal.
- Don’t use products, such as special mattresses or wedges, that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that they do.
- Don’t use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS. Very rarely some babies need a monitor because of medical problems. There’s no evidence that the monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies.
Mom and baby care
- Feed your baby only breast milk for at least 6 months. Continue breastfeeding your baby until at least her first birthday.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy and until you stop breastfeeding. Don’t let anyone smoke in your home or around your baby.
- Take your baby to all his well baby visits and make sure he gets his vaccinations on time.
- Give your baby tummy time every day. Tummy time helps your baby develop his neck, shoulder and arm muscles.
- During pregnancy, go to all of your prenatal care checkups, even if you feel fine.
When followed, these guidelines can protect today’s babies from risks that plagued many of us and the lives of many generations preceding us. Given the risks involved, it’s important that they be exactly followed every time we lay a baby down to sleep.
I’m forever amazed that each of my babies survived my parenting. I think in many respects each of us feel that way. It’s funny that many of our parents used to joke that babies should come with a how-to manual or user guide. Today, with the volumes of research at our fingertips, they do! Now it’s up to us to follow the guide and keep those babies safe.