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What is the safest way for a baby to sleep?

By The Health News Team | November 7, 2022
Baby sleeping in bassinet

Newborns sleep a lot. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an infant should sleep between 14 and 17 hours over a 24-hour period. That is why it is so important for parents to prepare a safe sleep environment for their little one.

Each year, thousands of babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in the United States. However, following the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations can decrease the possibility of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). This term includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation in a sleep environment and other deaths from unknown causes in babies less than 1 year old.

We answer three common questions about lowering your baby’s risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of death and keeping your baby safe while sleeping.

How and where should my baby sleep?

  • Babies should sleep on their backs. The term “back is best” was popularized in 1992, when research found that placing babies on their backs helped reduce the risk of SIDS. Remember to always place your baby on their back to sleep, including during naps.

  • Babies should sleep on a firm and flat surface. It is important to choose a surface that is non-inclined to reduce the risk of suffocation if the baby rolls over.

  • Babies should sleep in an area that is clear. Keep any baby blankets and stuffed animals outside of the sleeping area — that includes weighted blankets, pillows, quilts, comforters and any loose bedding. Speak to your pediatrician about safely adding in sleeping accessories when your child is between 12 and 18 months.

  • Babies should not sleep in a shared bed. The AAP does not recommend bed sharing. Infants should sleep on a separate surface designed for infants, such as in a bassinet or crib, near your bed for at least the first six months of life.

  • Babies should sleep in a bassinet or crib. While we know naps on the go are hard to prevent, it is important to try and avoid intentionally putting your baby to sleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier or sling.

What should my baby wear to sleep?

  • Babies should not wear hats. Hats are perfect for photos, to protect from the sun or to give some extra warmth outside. However, hats are not recommended while sleeping and can fall off as a baby moves and become a hazard.

  • Babies should wear layers. Keep your baby warm by dressing them in layers and do not add any blankets to their bassinet or crib.

  • Babies should be swaddled. A swaddle not only protects your baby against their natural startle reflex but can also add a layer of warmth and reduce anxiety in your baby. There are many swaddle options on the market, but it is important to know that weighted swaddles or sleepers are not recommended for infants. As your baby grows and tummy time leads to signs of rolling over, it is important to stop swaddling and release your baby’s arms to reduce the risk of suffocation.

How can I reduce my baby’s risk of SIDS?

  • Breastfeed. The antibodies in breastmilk have been proven to fight infections, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and help mature a baby’s immune system.

  • Improve air circulation in the room. Running a fan in an infant’s room has been proven to lower the risk of SIDS by 72%.

  • Maintain a clear mind. Avoiding the use of nicotine, marijuana, alcohol and illicit drug use can help reduce the risk of SIDS.

  • Schedule regular checkups. Maintaining regular checkups for your newborn ensures they are up to date on vaccines and are monitored for any infections or viruses.

To learn more about safe sleep, postpartum care and newborn care, read our New Beginnings Resource Guide.

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