Bringing a new baby into your family should not only be a happy time, but a safe time, too.
Since 1994, when the American Academy of Pediatrics and other national organizations partnered on the “Back to Sleep” campaign, the rate of sudden infant death syndrome has dropped to half of what it was. Unfortunately, there are still 3,500 sudden and unexpected infant deaths per year. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than half of U.S. infants sleep in unsafe conditions. More than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping, often due to SIDS or accidental death from suffocation or strangulation.
There are steps you can take to make your baby’s sleep environment safe and comforting:
-Babies should sleep on their backs on a flat, firm surface. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are twice as likely to die and babies who sleep on their sides are 11 times more likely to die. Even elevating the head of the bed increases the risk of death.
-Breastfeeding is encouraged; it is associated with decreased risk of SIDS.
-Do not use blankets, pillows, bumpers or have any soft items such as toys or stuffed animals in the bed; use only a tight-fitting bottom sheet.
-Sharing a room with parents can be helpful as long as the infants are on a separate surface designed for infants. Bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS.
-Avoid alcohol, illicit drugs, and smoke exposure during the pregnancy and after birth. These are all associated with increased risk of SIDS for the infant.
-If you’re holding your baby and you become sleepy, put your baby in their bed.
-If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, move them to a firm sleep surface on their back as soon as possible.
-Do not use microfiber blankets, other bedding that could cause the infant to overheat, or cover their head. Overheating is associated with increased risk of SIDS.
Remember to educate everyone who will be caring for your baby about safe sleep habits — including parents, grandparents, caregivers and all family members and friends. Safe sleep for baby should be practiced by everyone, every time a baby sleeps. Please be sure to talk to your baby’s primary care providers with any concerns or questions. They will continue to be among your best resources!
This article was adapted from the AAP’s 2016 policy statement on recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment.