“How can I keep my baby safe when they sleep?”
If I had a nickel…
I LOVE hearing this question because I am all about equipping parents with the knowledge and tips on how to keep their little one slumbering safely. I’m sure you’re doing (or not doing!) many of these already, but it’s always, always, always good to stay up to date on the dos & don’ts of safe baby sleep.
Understandably, there is so much anxiety around your baby’s sleep – especially for new parents! You want your baby to sleep well, but then you’re checking the monitor like it’s a reflex, and sneaking into their room to check on their breathing. Of course we want to keep an eye on our little one’s wellbeing, but the compulsive behaviour and anxious feelings behind it create even more hurdles for parents to overcome. Ask any parent juggling life with a baby – the last thing they need are more challenges.
While proper sleep is a noble goal (and we all need it!), safety is always the top priority. The good news here is that when we apply these safe sleep guidelines, we don’t have to choose between them. So grab your coffee out of the microwave (I bet you forgot it in there! Ask me how I know…), and reduce your parenting anxiety by learning my best tips on sleep safety for your little one. Because you can’t put a price on peace of mind!
Know your ABCs
The biggest recommendation I can make is knowing and following your ABCs. You know, the ABCs of sleep.
Alone The safest place for your little one to sleep is by themselves, in their own approved space. The AAP recommends that your baby sleep in the same room as you (but in their own sleep environment!) for the first 6+ months of life.
Back For baby’s first year, they should always be placed on their back when going to sleep. This is safest, as it greatly decreases the risk of suffocation. Even as baby learns to roll, you still want to be placing them on their back. If your babe can confidently roll both ways, you don’t have to go in to flip them. But if your little one can’t yet roll both ways, it is always recommended that you return them to being on their back for sleep.
Crib Your little one should only sleep in an approved bassinet or crib. The space should have a firm mattress and be totally empty. This means having only a fitted sheet, and making sure there are no toys, blankets, bumpers etc in the crib, and it’s not close to anything they could pull into their space.
Some things to avoid…
While there are many things to do, there are also things recommended not to do. You know I’m not a stickler for rules, but when it comes to baby’s safety, I’m all about them. I’m a mom to 3 little girlies, and I’ll be the first to tell you that babies don’t always get the memo when it comes to safe sleep practices. While this is not a permission slip to only pick your fav rules, know that I’ve been there too and I understand that it can be an uphill climb. But here are some practices you’ll want to steer clear of:
Overheating & a covered head The rule of thumb is to only dress baby in up to one extra layer beyond what an adult would wear. If you suspect your babe is hot, check for signs of sweating or if their chest feels quite warm. If either is the case, remove layers and check on them again. Never put baby to bed in clothing with a hood.
Loose blankets Any type of loose blanket can become a hazard for suffocation or entanglement. An excellent alternative is a velcro swaddle (until they start to roll), or a sleep sack. These are safe, warm, and comforting. If you’re looking for suggestions, my favs are Nested Bean, Woolino, & Embé.
Other important stuff
I’ll stress the need to be vigilant about sleep arrangements outside of your babe’s home. This might be at a Grandparent’s, babysitter’s, daycare, while traveling, etc. Sometimes the sleep set up isn’t up to snuff, and it’s important to be proactive. Ask questions and ensure you feel comfortable with how things are. Statistically, more sleep tragedies happen outside of the child’s home, so it’s well worth the due diligence.
I hate to be a party pooper, but it’s also important that babies aren’t sleeping in items like swings, car seats (when not on its base), strollers etc. Why? Because it creates the risk for airway obstruction if they can’t hold their head in the proper position. This is especially true for babies 4 months and under.
You’re doing a great job! The fact that you’re eager to learn about sleep safety means you’re on the right track. It’s my goal to educate parents & caregivers about sleep safety to keep littles ones safe (obviously!), and help ease anxiety from those who care for them. You can rest better knowing your baby is sleeping safely in their space, and also getting the rest they need.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is considered the gold standard when it comes to safe sleep practices for infants and their caregivers. So if you have a sleep question and insist on middle-of-the-night Googling, that is your best resource.
You can also learn the 5 Easy Steps to Safe & Effective Sleep that I am happy to send you (it’s free!). Or if you feel like you’re in deep, I can help you 1:1 to make sure everyone is getting their rest.