6 pointers to make sleep safe for babies

6 Tips to Make Sleep Safe for Babies

Baby sleep safety in the bedroom isn’t only about the type of crib you buy. It’s also about what you put in the crib and how you position your baby for sleep.

Virtua registered nurse and childbirth educator Vicki Casey provides the following tips to keep your baby safe and sound.

Retire your childhood crib and buy new

Repurposing a 20-year-old crib may follow the vintage motif you’ve chosen for your baby’s nursery, but nostalgia and a good sense of style won’t keep your baby safe.

“Parents should be very careful about using older cribs. Safety standards have changed to help babies avoid injuries and to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),” explains Casey. Concerns with older cribs include:

  • Chipped paint
  • Worn-out hardware
  • Bar width
  • Drop-down side rails

“Today’s safety standards recommend the width of the bars be no greater than 2 3/8 inches apart,” Casey notes. “That isn’t always the case, so it’s good to double check the crib you plan to buy.”

Be a minimalist

It’s hard to fight the impulse to create a decorative and beautiful crib for your baby, but the safest bedding for infants is minimal – just a fitted sheet and a firm mattress.

“Pillows, blankets and bumper pads are not recommended until your baby is approximately 1 1/2 years old. Any of these items can put your baby at risk for suffocation,” Casey notes.

In addition, it’s unsafe for an infant to sleep on a soft surface such as a couch, pillow, blanket or sheepskin, which also put babies at risk for suffocation. 

Keep it cool

Less also is best when it comes to dressing your baby for bed, as you don’t want the baby to get hot while sleeping. Casey recommends putting your baby in a snug, one-piece pajama set and keeping the room temperature cool and comfortable.

Assume the position

When putting your baby to sleep, place her on her back. “Back is best until your baby is able to roll onto her belly on her own,” says Casey. “Babies are usually able to roll from their bellies to their backs first. Tummy time can begin at birth but should be done ONLY when your baby is awake and attended to. Your baby should never be left alone during tummy time until she is rolling back and forth on her own.”

Soothe to sleep

Put your baby to sleep when he’s slightly awake. “This helps your baby learn to soothe himself to sleep,” explains Casey. “If he wakes up at night, he recognizes where he is and feels comfortable and secure enough to go back to sleep.”

While room-sharing with a baby is recommended for helping prevent SIDS, parents SHOULD NOT co-sleep – or share a bed – with an infant.

Consult your pediatrician

While you may think your child is ready to snuggle up with a stuffed animal or favorite blankie at night, always check with your pediatrician before putting anything in the crib. “It's important for you to discuss these topics with your pediatrician to remain up-to-date on current safety standards,” says Casey. 

Updated June 6, 2016

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