Tips for Safe Sleeping: Newborns and Babies

by Nancy Maruyama, RN

sleeping babyAn infant's sleep environment plays a large role in safe sleep. SIDS deaths are most likely to occur when babies are between the ages of 2 months and 4 months, and deaths tend to peak in winter months. It is the leading cause of death in babies 1 month to 1 year old. These tips employ strategies for lowering the SIDS risk:

1. The best place for a baby is alone in an approved crib. It is important that the baby not share a bed with another adult or child because there have been a number of babies that have died as a result of suffocation by overlay, entrapment or positional asphyxia. (Editor's Note: If you plan to co-sleep, certain steps are necessary to insure your baby's safety. See Co-Sleeping (Making it Work and Making it Safe) by Elizabeth Panthley.)

2. The best position for baby to sleep is on their backs. In the US, SIDS deaths have decreased nearly 50% since the introduction of the "Back to Sleep" national campaign. Side sleeping has been shown to put babies at higher risk for death because of the chance that they will roll to their tummy.

3. Baby should sleep in a smoke free room. This includes NOT sleeping in a room where others smoke as well as not in bed sharing with an adult who is a smoker. smoking has repeatedly been linked to SIDS especially when bed sharing occurs between baby and smoker.

4. Baby should sleep on a firm, flat mattress covered by a tight fitting sheet only. Babies should never sleep on surfaces not specifically meant for infant sleep. In the United states, adult mattresses were never intended for a sleeping infant. newer mattresses have pillow toppers that are much too soft for a baby who may not be able to turn their head side to side in order to take a breath of fresh air. Babies have suffocated from sleeping on sofas, pull out couches, chairs, waterbeds, beanbags, sheepskins, a sagging mattress or a mattress that does not fit snuggly against the headboard or foot board of a crib. It is also important that mattresses never be covered with thin plastic coverings.

5. The only safe bedding for baby is no bedding. Layer clothing on baby for warmth instead of layering blankets. SIDS of Illinois recommends the Halo™ SleepSack as a safe alternative to blankets. Baby's face should never be covered and pillows should never be used. This can also cause suffocation.

6. Stuffed animals, pillows, bumper pads or other fluffy items do not belong in baby's sleeping areas. There have been numerous reports of suffocation from accidentally covering the baby's mouth and nose with these items. The baby's crib should contain nothing but the crib.

7. Do not dress the baby too warmly. Allowing babies to become too warmly dressed has been shown to be a risk factor for SIDS. Avoid extra clothing especially when the baby has a fever.

8. Sleep with a fan or an open window. Increasing airflow near a sleeping baby seems to help protect against sudden infant death syndrome.

Copyright © Nancy Maruyama, SIDS of Illinois, Inc.. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.