7 Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Safer

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September is Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month and today we're highlighting seven steps you can take to ensure your baby has a safer night's sleep.

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The statistics are heartbreaking. According to the CDC, there are an average of 3,500 unexpected infant deaths each year. While we often think about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when we talk about infant sleep safety, there are other sleep-related safety hazards that parents need to be concerned about too such as accidental suffocation, entrapment and strangulation. In fact, while the U.S. rate of SIDS dropped more than 60% between 1994 and 2014, the rate of infant deaths from other sleep-related causes increased from 903 in 1994 to 1,945 in 2014! Here are seven important tips from the National Institute of Health's Safe to Sleep campaign, First Candle, and the American Academy of Pediatrics on helping to ensure that your child has a good and safe night's sleep.

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Room-share, but don't bed-share. While many parents love to keep their babies close at night, the National Institute of Health's Safe to Sleep campaign, First Candle, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that parents do not share a bed with their infant. According to First Candle, "there is significant evidence to indicate that bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS, suffocation and accidental deaths." Instead keep baby in your room in a bassinet or co-sleeper like the HALO Swivel Sleeper until you're ready to move her to her own crib.

Choose a firm crib mattress. While we instinctively want to surround our babies with soft fabrics and toys, ensuring that your crib has a firm and well-fitting mattress is key for sleep safety. According to Safe to Sleep, "babies who sleep on soft surfaces, such as on an adult mattress, a couch, or an armchair, are at higher risk for SIDS and suffocation." Learn more about crib safety standards and recalls at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

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Place babies on their backs to sleep. While you may think it's cozier to curl up on your side or belly sleep, for babies, back is best for naps and bedtimes. According to the NIH, "Research shows that:

  • Sleeping on the back carries the lowest risk for SIDS.
  • Sleeping on the stomach or side carry the highest risk for SIDS.
  • Babies who usually sleep on their backs but are then placed to sleep on their stomachs, such as for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS."

This last point is especially important if you have grandparents, babysitters, or other caregivers putting your infant down for naps or bedtime. Be sure to clearly explain how to safely put baby to sleep and consider leaving a visual note to remind others who watch your child.

Say bye-bye to crib bumpers and blankets. While bumpers and crib blankets might seem like a cozy addition to your baby's crib, they can pose a serious safety risk for babies, increasing the risk of suffocation on the soft material. Before crib safety was regulated, crib slat spacing wasn't uniform and many parents used bumpers to protect their babies from getting stuck between slats. Now, all cribs sold in the US must meet safety standards that make bumpers unnecessary.

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Swaddle safely with a wearable blanket. Instead of wrapping your baby in loose blankets that can entangle your baby or cover your child's face, keep your child covered with a secure swaddle blanket or lightweight wearable sleep blanket that will keep the blanket away from your child's face.

Watch for overheating. While parents tend to be sensitive to keeping babies warm, overheating during sleep has shown a connection to SIDS deaths. Don't overbundle baby for sleep and be on the lookout for signs of overheating - sweating, damp hair, flushed or red cheeks, heat rash, or rapid breathing.

Consider a pacifier. While many parents are afraid of building dependence on a pacifier, the NIH reports that research show that "babies who used pacifiers during their last sleep were at significantly lower risk for SIDS than were babies who did not." If your baby isn't interested in a paci, don't force it. But if it helps your child go to sleep, you can rest easy that its also providing other safe sleep benefits.

Want more safe sleep information? Check out the following websites for more information and tips on creating a safe sleep environment for your baby.

Be sure to share these tips with your partner, babysitter and anyone else who watches your newborn.

Momtrends was not paid for this post.

Some Images are courtesy of the Safe to Sleep® campaign, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sids; Safe to Sleep® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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