As a new parent, of course you want to make sure your baby is always safe – especially when they are sleeping (and you can finally get some shut eye). Luckily, there are many things a parent can do to create a safe sleep environment for baby.
Baby should only sleep on their back
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that infants sleep on their back to avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Fortunately, since then, the number of tragic incidences have drastically declined.
Don’t share a bed with baby
Although sharing a bed with your baby can be convenient and an opportunity for bonding, the increased risk of SIDS from sharing a bed with your baby is proven by decades of research. Bed-sharing can increase the risk of SIDS by five times. For infants less than three months old, bed-sharing was the most common cause of death. And for infants four to twelve months old who passed away from bed-sharing, additional items such as pillows or blankets on the bed increased the risk of SIDS.
Other things that add to the risk of death while sharing a bed with baby include:
- Baby sleeping on the couch with or without a parent
- Baby sleeping in between parents
- Exhausted parents
- A parent who recently used drugs or alcohol
- Pillows or covers in the bed while bed-sharing
- Sharing a bed with other children
- Parents (one or both) that are smokers (even if they aren’t smoking in bed)
- When mom smoked during pregnancy
- Babies born prematurely and/or with low birthweight
The AAP recommends that infants sleep in their parent’s room but on a separate surface. Ideally, baby should share a room with you for the first year of life, but at least six months is recommended.
More tips to prevent SIDS
- To avoid overheating, dress baby in minimal clothing
- Baby should never sleep in an adult bed
- Baby should not be put to sleep on a soft surface (such as a soft mattress, sofa or waterbed)
- Baby’s head should remain uncovered while sleeping
- Crib bumpers, pillows, comforters, quilts and other soft or plush items should not be on baby’s bed (they could interfere with breathing)
- Baby’s bed should not be near draperies, blinds or anything else with cords
- Dress baby in a sleeper instead of using blankets
- Don’t use pacifiers with strings around baby’s neck or clipped to their clothing (it is a choking hazard)
- Don't drink alcohol or use drugs
- Don’t use medications that could make you groggy, cause you not to wake up or mishandle your baby
- Don't fall asleep with baby on your chest
- Don't fall asleep on couches, recliners or rockers with baby
Going to the ER, urgent care or pediatrician
The first rule you should always follow when baby is sick or injured is “better safe than sorry.” That means call 911 and get baby to the ER immediately if the illness or injury is serious or if you think it might be serious at all. The 911 operator can instruct you on the best course of action.