Baby Sleep Safety Tips By Age For Parents To Reduce The Risk Of SIDS

Baby Sleep Safety Tips For You And Your Little One So You Can Both Snooze Soundly

May 6, 2021 Updated July 29, 2021

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Image by amyelizabethquinn/Pixabay

As any new parent can attest, the arrival of a baby often leads excited friends and family members to shower you with baby gear and gifts like adorable blankets and stuffed animals. Unfortunately, babies can’t get much use out of these cute items until after their first birthday. No matter how much time your great aunt spent knitting the perfect blanket for your little one, baby sleep safety always comes first.

Not sure which safe sleep protocols to implement ahead of baby’s arrival? It’s prudent to always look to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for answers. Following the AAP’s guidelines for baby sleep safety can help prevent your baby from suffering from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although there’s still much doctors don’t know about SIDS, Boston Children’s Hospital’s list of SIDS risk factors includes unsafe sleeping environments, among others. While our parents may have filled our cribs with blankets and stuffed bears, we now know a baby’s sleeping area should be completely clutter-free in order to reduce the risk of suffocation. Sadly, SIDS can still occur even when parents take every precaution, but we know more about the devastating syndrome now than we did 20 years ago — and that’s good news for worried parents everywhere.

Bringing home your baby can be overwhelming, and adding stress over how to keep them safe while they’re sleeping to the mix isn’t good for you or the newest member of your family. Luckily, the AAP has clear guidelines on how to help your baby sleep safely straight through to the toddler stage (which should also improve your sleep in the long run — worrying and resting simply do not go together). Whether you’re wondering when you can introduce blankets to naptime or what your newborn should wear to sleep, we’ve got you covered. Read on for answers to all of your most pressing baby sleep safety questions — and remember, if you ever have a question about how to keep your baby safe at night and during naptimes that you can’t find a satisfactory answer to, don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician.

When can my baby sleep with a blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal?

The AAP hasn’t given an official recommendation on when it is safe for babies to begin sleeping with blankets, stuffed animals, and other objects in their cribs, but the general consensus is cribs should be kept clear at least until a baby is 12 months old. According to the AAP, objects like blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and even crib bumpers can increase a baby’s chances of SIDS, suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation. Additionally, blankets can also cause your baby to overheat, which is another SIDS risk factor.

While it may be tempting to bundle up your baby for bedtime, the only things that should be in their crib are a correctly sized mattress and a fitted sheet. If you have a newborn, you may choose to swaddle them, but you should always be sure they’re not over-dressed (to prevent overheating), have room to move their knees and hips, and are placed on their back. Once your baby reaches the age when they can roll over — usually around 3 months — you should stop swaddling them in case they roll over in their sleep.

What should my newborn wear to sleep in?

Since babies shouldn’t sleep with blankets, it’s natural to wonder how you’re supposed to keep them warm while they’re dozing. The general rule of thumb is your baby should only wear one more layer of clothing than you. This should be enough to keep them cozy without leading to over-heating. In terms of choosing an outfit, onesies with or without feet, or a two-piece pajama set should be plenty for your newborn. If you’re swaddling them, then you can add a muslin swaddle.

Once your baby outgrows the swaddling stage, you may prefer a sleep sack to keep your little one warm, especially if it’s wintertime and your house runs a little cold. However, once your baby begins pulling up on their crib, you’ll want to retire the sleep sacks as well. Ultimately, you’ll get the hang of dressing your baby for bed soon enough. Just remember, if you’re hot or cold, they probably are too, so dress them accordingly.

Is it safe for my baby to sleep with me?

Co-sleeping is a hot topic in the parenting community, but there is a practical reason why you should avoid placing your newborn in your bed: It increases their risk for strangulation and suffocation from sheets and bedding, and tired parents can potentially roll over on their little ones. However, even though the AAP advises against infants sleeping in their parents’ bed, the academy does suggest keeping your baby’s bassinet or crib in your room until they’re at least 6-months-old.

According to HealthyBaby.org, room-sharing can decrease your baby’s risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent. It can also help you sleep more soundly knowing your baby is within arms length for feeding, and so you can keep an eye on them while they’re sleeping.

Can my baby safely sleep in their pack ‘n play?

Pack ‘n plays are perfect for parents who need to move around the house or take their baby over to grandma’s for a visit. These portable playpens often double as changing stations, and yes, even a napping locale. Ultimately, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in their crib, but short, supervised naps in a pack ‘n play that’s completely clear of toys and blankets should be fine. Still, a pack ‘n play shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a crib, and it’s best not to let your baby sleep in one all night long.

There’s no shortage of baby sleep rules, but as long as you place your little on their back, dress them appropriately for bedtime, save the blankets for when they hit the toddler stage, and keep them nearby while they’re snoozing, you should both sleep soundly (and safely).

Are crib bumpers safe for your baby?

The answer is no. Crib bumpers may be cute, but even breathable crib bumpers can harm your baby. According to the CDC, there shouldn’t be any blankets, pillows, soft toys, or bumper pads in the baby’s sleeping area. Crib bumpers increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome because they can cause suffocation and strangulation. Older babies may also use them to climb out of their cribs which can cause serious falls. 

Can babies sleep on their side?

Infants have little strength when it comes to moving their heads, so if you lay baby on their side, they risk falling asleep on their stomachs. As a result, their heads may get stuck in a certain position, making it harder for them to breathe. And because they haven’t developed muscles in their neck yet, they won’t be able to move from that position or lift their heads, especially before four months old.

Is it OK to elevate baby’s head while sleeping?

“When putting a baby down to sleep, avoid elevating their heads with a pillow or blanket. However, it is OK to slightly raise one side of the bed by putting a pillow or towel underneath the mattress. This elevates the baby’s head and upper body ever so slightly to help with acid reflux, but not enough to cause them to roll over on their belly by accident, which can lead to suffocation.