Supporting Safe Sleep for Babies. Tips parents need to know

Babies need anywhere from 14 to 17 hours of sleep per night. Although you can expect your baby to wake frequently at night (especially a newborn), they still need plenty of time to rest overnight and during the days for naps.

Key takeaways:
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    Accidental injuries can easily happen to babies overnight.
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    Taking steps to keep your baby safe while they sleep could help prevent a serious injury or even death.
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    Your baby should sleep in a designated space that is firm and free from loose pillows and blankets.
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    Baby sleep safety recommendations can change a bit as your baby ages.

Ensuring your baby has a safe place to sleep is essential to avoid accidental injury and encourage a restful night of sleep.

Sleep safety checklist

Young babies are at an increased risk for accidental injuries while sleeping. Sleep-related injuries are more common in babies who are younger than six months of age. A baby can get hurt overnight in many ways, including accidental suffocation and falling out of a crib.

Taking certain steps to keep your baby safe overnight is essential. Here are some tips to help you keep your baby safe while they sleep at night.

Designate a safe sleep space

Your baby should have his or her safe sleep area. It is not recommended for babies to share a bed with their parents unless they have a co-sleeping bassinet for safety. A crib or bassinet is ideal for younger babies.

Your baby’s sleep area should be firm and made with only a fitted sheet. Giving your baby a place to sleep can help you control the environment and keep it safe. Additionally, it is dangerous to let your baby sleep in your bed unattended, as they could roll or crawl out by mistake.

Practice proper sleep positioning

Babies should be laid to sleep on their backs. Some older babies may want to roll onto their stomachs to sleep, which is okay if they can roll back on their own. You should never lay your baby down on their stomach to sleep, especially if they don’t know how to roll back. Stomach sleeping is associated with an increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Don’t put anything in the crib

Your baby should sleep in a crib with a fitted sheet only. Never add extra blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals, as these can increase the risk of accidental suffocation. Also, avoid letting your baby sleep with a bottle in their crib, as this can be dangerous and make them more likely to develop cavities.

Use a baby monitor (or practice room sharing)

Setting up a baby monitor can help you keep track of your baby at night to ensure they remain safe and comfortable.

Some parents choose to room-share, meaning they set up the crib or bassinet in their room. This is a great option recommended by the AAP for the baby’s first six months of life. If you share your bedroom with your baby and remain in the room at all times, you probably don’t need to use a baby monitor.

However, if you plan to walk out of the room, a baby monitor is a great way to hear your baby and get to them promptly if they wake up and cry at night.

Use a swaddle or wearable blanket

You don’t want to place any blankets in your baby’s crib, but you want to ensure they stay warm at night. Use a wearable swaddle or footie pajamas to keep your baby’s body covered and warm overnight.

Where should my baby sleep?

It is recommended for newborn babies to sleep in a bassinet or crib. Some parents use a Pack N’ Play or play yard as a crib, which is a perfectly safe option.

Most important is that your baby sleeps in an enclosed area that is firm and free from added pillows or blankets. Your baby’s crib or bassinet should only have a fitted sheet and shouldn’t be too soft or padded.

Younger babies can sleep in a raised crib, but once your baby can pull themselves up to standing, you’ll need to lower the crib mattress to ensure that they don’t climb out of the crib at night.

Is co-sleeping safe?

The AAP does not recommend sharing a bed with your baby. Co-sleeping is a controversial topic among experts and has sometimes led to accidental injuries and even the death of babies.

Co-sleeping can be done safely, but many precautions should be taken. For example, never leave your baby unattended in your bed since they could easily fall out. You should never sleep with a baby if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Always ensure your baby is not sleeping near any pillows or loose blankets. You can use a co-sleeping bassinet connecting to the side of the bed to allow your baby to sleep close to you while keeping them in an enclosed environment.

Baby sleep safety tips by age

The steps you should take to keep your baby safe at night will vary as your baby gets older. Here are some age-specific recommendations for baby sleep safety.

Sleep safety tips for newborns

  • Always lay your baby down to sleep on his or her back on a firm surface.
  • Do not let your baby sleep with loose pillows or blankets.
  • Have your baby sleep in a bassinet or crib.
  • It is okay for your baby to sleep with a pacifier at night but don’t put anything else in their crib with them.
  • Dress your baby in footie pajamas or a wearable swaddle to keep them warm at night.
  • Be mindful of the room temperature and ceiling fans so your baby doesn't get too cold.

Sleep safety for older babies (6 months+)

  • Once your baby can roll from front to back, it is okay for them to sleep on their stomach.
  • If your baby can pull themselves up to standing, lower the crib mattress, so they don’t climb out of the crib.
  • Stop using a bassinet once your baby outgrows the weight requirement, or they can roll over independently.

By following the safety suggestions outlined here, you can ensure your baby has a good night’s sleep.

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