The Sleep-Safe Baby Guide
Are you following the latest guidelines for how to keep your baby safe?
You probably already know to put your baby to sleep on her back, not her stomach. That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When your baby can roll over on her own at around 6 months, you can still follow this guideline, though there’s no need to worry about repositioning her if she turns on her side or tummy while sleeping. She should now have the neck and core strength to turn her head when needed.
But there are other tips that parents, grandparents and caregivers should be aware of to keep baby safe while she snoozes.
Bassinets and cribs
The only safe and approved space for your baby to sleep is in his crib or bassinet, says the AAP. Under U.S. federal law, crib and bassinet manufacturers are required to meet the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
For added insurance, choose products that meet the rigorous safety requirements set by independent standards groups like the American Society for Testing and Materials. A simple way to find out if your model makes the grade: Look for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association’s certification seal on the box when you buy a crib, or scan the association’s database.
Babies outgrow bassinets quickly, so it’s critical that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on maximum weight and height.
If you inherited a used bassinet or crib, check that it hasn’t been recalled. If the crib’s sides go down, don’t use it. As of 2011, drop-side cribs no longer meet the CPSC safe crib guidelines. Several reports revealed that infants and toddlers became trapped by the side rail and suffocated.
Putting the crib together
The safety and integrity of the crib depends a whole lot on whether it’s put together properly. Always follow crib assembly directions to the letter, and never substitute hardware. Save the assembly directions in a safe place, or call the manufacturer for a new set if you lose them and need them. If you have to break down the crib for a move, store all hardware in a sealed plastic bag and tape it securely to the bottom of the crib.
When you buy the crib, take a minute to fill out the online registration form or mail in the paper form. If the crib is recalled for any safety issues, you will be notified.
The crib mattress
The materials used to make crib mattresses can emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Do your baby a favor and choose a mattress with UL GREENGUARD certification. This means UL put a representative sample of the crib mattress through rigorous testing and that the mattress meets strict chemical emission limits, reducing exposure to VOCs.
The mattress needs to fit snugly in the crib, with no gaps between the mattress and the rails. Use a snug-fitting sheet to cover the mattress.
Major no-no's to avoid
Avoid placing the crib near windows, draperies, blinds or wall-mounted decorative accessories with cords. (In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns if you have babies or young children, you should replace all your blinds, drapes and shades with cords with cordless window coverings and to keep any kind of cord away from the crib.) And keep stuffed animals, fluffy pillows and bumpers out of the crib. They might make it seem cozy, but they can suffocate an infant.
Never let your baby fall asleep on the sofa. It may be common for sleep-deprived parents to nod off while sitting on the couch with their baby or to allow their little ones to nap on chairs, sofas, waterbeds, pillows, cushions or blankets, but it’s extremely hazardous.
A study published in November 2014 in the journal Pediatrics warned that letting your baby sleep on a sofa increases the risk of death because infants are more likely to be placed face down or on their side compared to other sleep locations. About one in eight sleep-related infant deaths happened on sofas. About 70 percent of these deaths were in infants 0 to 3 months old. The report also noted that deaths were more likely when babies were sleeping on a couch with someone else or the baby was exposed to tobacco during pregnancy.
If your child falls asleep (with or without you) on any soft surface or upright position — in his car seat, stroller, bouncy chair or baby swing — transfer him to his crib. This is especially important for babies under 4 months because they lack neck strength and can suffocate if their head rolls forward too much.
If you happen to be somewhere where there isn’t a crib, put your baby to sleep on a firm, enclosed space, such as a portable play yard with no loose bedding or pillows.
Dressing baby for sleep
Don’t over-bundle your bambino. Over-bundling contributes to an increased risk of SIDS, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Check whether she’s too hot by kissing her forehead to see if it’s damp. You can also touch her ears and fingers. If they feel hot and are red and sweaty, your baby is over-wrapped. If she’s only slightly warm, then the temperature is just right.
Set the room temperature in a range that’s suitable for a lightly clothed adult. When dressing your baby for bedtime, a good rule of thumb is to dress him as you would yourself, plus one layer if he isn’t being swaddled. During the colder months, smart clothing choices include cotton long-sleeve bottom and top pajamas, zip-up fleece footy pajamas or sleep sacks (wearable blankets) over a “onesie,” a one-piece cotton undershirt/bottom.
Respond right to baby’s milestones
When you start to see your baby hit milestones like pulling up to stand in his crib (around 8 months), it’s time to adjust the height of the mattress. Make sure the mattress is at its lowest setting and that there isn’t anything in the crib he could stand on to get himself out of it, advises Brooke Nalle, pediatric sleep consultant and contributor to Ready, Set, Baby! The Watch and Learn Guide to Baby’s First Year.
Once your baby can push herself up on her hands and knees, it's time to remove mobiles from the crib. According to the American Society for Testing and Materials, an international safety standards organization, mobiles are meant for infants from birth through five months and should be kept out of the baby's reach.
As your infant becomes more mobile, look around the nursery to make sure he can’t grasp any furniture, bookshelves, lamps, etc. that were previously out of reach. “Anticipating the dangers of their ever-growing reach is crucial to your baby’s safety,” says Nalle.
Tara Rummell Berson is a health and wellness writer and editor. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Redbook, WebMD and The Huffington Post.