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Many first-time parents and even those that are seasoned have a lot of questions about how to keep their babies safe while sleeping. Although safe sleep can cause a lot of anxiety, there are many ways we can help keep our babies out of harm’s way while they are resting.
More than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping, often due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental deaths from suffocation or strangulation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their safe sleep guidelines in October 2016. Many of the recommendations like sleeping on the back stayed the same, but some guidelines have been updated.
Below is an overview of the current safe sleep guidelines that the AAP recommends. We welcome open and honest discussions about safe sleep at all of your visits with us, so please let us help guide you to the safest sleep environment for your baby.
1. Until one year old, babies should sleep on their backs for night time and naps. Babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to die of SIDS. We recommend sleeping on back – not on side or stomach – even in cases of babies with GERD. Some babies may roll onto their stomachs, which is ok if your baby is rolling front to back and back to front, and also rolls onto their stomach on their own. However, make sure there are no blankets, pillows, softies or bumpers around your baby.
2. Babies should be placed skin-to-skin with their mother as soon after birth as possible at least for the first hour after delivery. After the first hour or when mom needs to sleep, babies should be placed on their backs while sleeping in the basinett.
3. If baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move baby to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible.
4. Use a firm sleep surface such as a crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with a tight-fitting, firm mattress and fitted sheet designed for that particular product. Nothing else should be in the crib except for the baby. A firm surface is defined as a hard surface that does not indent when the baby is lying on it.
5. Room share without bed sharing for at least the first 6 months, or ideally for the year. The AAP recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% and is much safer than bed sharing. In addition, room sharing will make it easier for you to feed, comfort and watch your baby.
7. Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort them. Place your baby back in his or her own sleep space when you are ready to go to sleep. If there is any possibility that you might fall asleep, make sure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets, or any other items that could cover your baby’s face, head and neck, or overheat your baby. As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.
8. Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair. This is an extremely dangerous place for your baby to sleep.
9. Try to give a pacifier for sleep at night and nap time as this reduces the risk of SIDS. If you are breast feeding, it is recommended to start using a pacifier once breast feeding is established. When the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth, you don’t have to put it back in.
A lot of my patients wonder and ask about bed sharing. We appreciate it if you talk to us about any plans to bed share. Bed sharing is not recommended for any babies. However, certain situations make bed sharing even more dangerous. Therefore, you should not bed share with your baby if:
A lot of babies sleep better while swaddled and this is ok. Just make sure it is not so tight that the baby can’t breathe or move his/her hips. Once they can roll over, you should stop swaddling.
What Moms Can Do Before and After Baby Arrives:
1. Do not smoke during pregnancy or after baby is born. Keep baby away from smokers or areas where people smoke. If you do smoke, do not smoke near your baby, keep your car and home smoke free and do not bed share.
2. Do not use alcohol or illicit drugs.
3. Breast feed your baby, ideally exclusively for 6 months. If you can, continue for at least 12 months as this lowers the risk of SIDS.
4. Keep all your well child visits and get your immunizations on schedule.
5. While being watched, give your baby tummy time every day. This helps with motor development and keeps your baby’s head round.
6. Do not buy products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Wedges, positioners, mattresses and breathing monitors have not shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
As always, please talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about safe sleep. We appreciate an honest conversation about your baby’s sleep environment.