Safe sleep is a big deal for moms of newborns. According to the CDC, around 3,500 babies pass away from sleep-related deaths every year.
SIDS is an acronym for “sudden infant death syndrome” and it’s defined as the sudden death of an infant (usually while they are asleep) under the age of one.
There are no words for how awful SIDS is, but educating yourself about SIDS is the best thing that you can do to make sure that your baby is sleeping as safely as possible.
Your newborn baby will sleep around 16-20 hours a day, on average. That’s a lot of shut-eye! You can start preparing before baby is here by making sure that their future sleeping area is as safe as can be. Here are the main safe sleeping tips for newborns that you should know about.
How to create a safe sleeping area for your newborn baby
- Share a room with your baby for the first few months of life. It’s actually recommended to do this for as long as it works for your family. Optimally for 6 months – 1 year.
- Don’t add anything to their crib or bassinet apart from the mattress made for that crib + a fitted sheet on the mattress. This includes blankets, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, wedges, and things like Boppy pillows.
- Put your baby to sleep on their back. We’ll quickly get into this later, but this is SO IMPORTANT for the first months of life. You should always put your baby to sleep on their back. Once they are able to roll over by themselves, it’s less dangerous for them to be on their stomach – so if your baby has started rolling over, you probably don’t need to worry. Ask your doctor if you’re concerned!
- Bed-sharing and co-sleeping aren’t recommended. Lots of parents choose to co-sleep with their babies, but there are some instances where it’s even more dangerous than normal: If you can, try to avoid co-sleeping when your baby is younger than four months old or if your baby was born prematurely.
- Use a firm sleep surface. Your baby’s crib, bassinet, or pack and play is a safe bet if it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards (most do!). Putting a baby to sleep on a super-squishy surface (like a couch or an armchair) is more dangerous
“But I’ve seen so many pictures of babies sleeping in cribs with pillows, blankets, wedges, bumpers, etc.”
It’s ultimately every parent’s responsibility to decide what they’re ok with when it comes to safe sleep for infants.
At the end of the say, health professionals are recommending to remove everything from an infant’s sleeping area, no matter what you see on social media or in magazines or on TV.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics website:
“Messages in the media… are inconsistent with health care messages create confusion and misinformation about infant sleep safety and may lead inadvertently to unsafe practices.”
Believe me, I understand that it’s tempting to buy tons of crib accessories for your baby. Most of us moms to be are scrolling on the ‘gram and Pinteresting our lives away before the baby arrives – and lots of that time is spent looking for nursery inspo!
If you want to buy some of those things just for the cute photo opportunities, go right ahead!
Are sleep sacks safe for newborns?
Generally speaking, yes, sleep sacks are safe for newborns and infants. Sleep sacks and swaddles are the only kind of “blanket” that is recommended for newborns and infants.
While there is no evidence that they reduce the risk of SIDS, sleep sacks and swaddles, when used correctly, do not increase the risk of SIDS. Loose blankets and soft bedding do increase the risk of SIDS, which is why they aren’t recommended for babies.
Why should I put my baby to sleep on their back?
You’ve probably seen that in the 90’s, doctors recommended putting babies to sleep on their stomachs. So why have they changed their tune?
Working off of newer evaluations of SIDS data, the AAP recommends putting them on their backs for a main reason:
- They’ve found that the data suggests that infants sleeping on their stomachs get less oxygen and/or get rid of carbon dioxide less efficiently because they run the risk of “re-breathing” the same air over and over again in the case of a small pocket of bedding pulled up around the nose.
Since 1992, when the AAP started recommending putting babies to sleep on their backs, the annual SIDS rate has declined more than 50 percent.
Other safe sleep tips for newborns + ways to prevent SIDS
Here’s a misc. list of things that you can do to prevent SIDS from occurring. Some of these are more common-sense but some of these are things I’d never heard about before having my daughter.
- Don’t smoke anywhere around your baby, even if you’re outside. Also, keep your baby away from smokers or areas where people have been smoking. Keep your car and home smoke-free.
- Go to all of your baby’s well-visit appointments. You’ll get important info about your baby’s development and there is evidence to suggest that immunizations may lower your baby’s SIDS risk.
- If you choose to let your baby fall asleep in a Dock-A-Tot or a Boppy Newborn Lounger, or similar, stay with them and watch them. These kinds of products are very popular (I love the newborn loungers!) but they’re not technically safe for your babies to sleep in. Even products that are marketed as safe for sleep might be iffy. You may have heard about the recent Rock-N-Play recall, for example.
- Breastfed babies have a lower risk of SIDS. So, breastfeed (or pump!) if you can. We all know that fed is best, so whether your baby drinks formula or breast milk, they are getting what they need. But if this is your first baby and you’re making a list of pros and cons to breastfeeding, I’d recommend trying to breastfeed because of all the benefits your baby receives from breastmilk, especially the lower SIDS risk!
Let your family know that you’re actively trying to prevent SIDS and explain any safe sleeping rules to them
If any other members of your family will be watching your baby, let them know what the rules are. If you’re putting your baby to sleep exclusively on their back, make sure anyone who will be putting your baby to sleep understands that.
Let your parents, in-laws, friends, and siblings know that they can’t have the baby sleeping on the couch.
Any safe sleep rules you’ve created for your baby should be something you share with your family. Make sure they understand how important these rules are to you. If for some reason you’re met with some resistance, share facts with them from credible sources (like the AAP and the CDC).
A common objection is something along the lines of – “Well, I was put to sleep on my stomach and I’m just fine” or “My mother put me to sleep with a quilt and I’m okay.”) While these personal anecdotes are likely true, they don’t account for decades of research and data.
Let them know that your rules are based on professional recommendations and research and that you’re just trying to minimize risk for your baby. They should understand and comply with your chosen safe sleep rules.