15 Must-Follow Tips to Safe Sleep for Your Baby

15 Must-Follow Tips to Safe Sleep for Your Baby

Nothing is more magical than watching your precious bundle doze off to sleep. As a parent, you want to make sure that nothing disrupts or compromises the safety and comfort of your baby.

Sadly, every year, about 3400 babies die from sleep-related deaths in the United States, leaving behind grief-stricken parents who spend their lives wondering what went wrong.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), following a few tips and practices can go a long way in reducing the risk of sleep-related infant deaths.

That's why we've created this detailed guide to increase awareness of SIDS and tips to help you create a safe and comfy sleep environment for your baby.

Table of Contents

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) occurs when a baby under the age of one dies suddenly and unexpectedly due to unexplained reasons. It is also known as crib death, as it typically occurs during sleep.

While the rate of SIDS has been on a decline since the 1990s, it remains the leading cause of postneonatal death of infants in the United States.

About 90% of sleep-related deaths happen within the first six months after birth, with the risk being highest between months one and four.

Needless to say, the possibility of a sudden sleep-related death is a nightmare for the parents.

Luckily, experts have figured out a number of ways to prevent infant deaths from SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation during sleep. It involves creating a safe sleep environment for their baby.

Read on to learn more about 15 safe sleep practices that you can follow to lower your baby’s risk of SIDS.

15 Tips to Safe Sleep for Your Baby

1. Put Your Baby to Sleep on Their Back

This is hands-down the most important practice every parent or caregiver must follow. Always place your baby on their back, whether you’re putting them down for a nap or nighttime sleep. Never on their stomach.

Why is sleeping flat on the back better for an infant? Research shows infants placed on their backs are able to breathe better and have a much lesser chance of suffocation, choking, or SIDS than sleeping on their tummies or on their sides.

This applies even to babies with GERD or reflux issues, as good airflow and natural gag reflex kick in to stop them from choking on their spit-ups. You should follow this at least till your baby turns one.

At the five or six-month mark, however, you’ll notice them rolling over comfortably from back to tummy and tummy to back. In that case, you don’t need to keep repositioning them if they’ve rolled over in their sleep.

But make sure there are no pillows, blankets, plushies, or any item they can roll over into. Such items can block their airflow.

2. Use a Firm, Flat Surface

When putting your baby down for a nap or sleep, make sure the surface is firm and flat. The safest option would be a combination of a firm mattress, a tight-fitted sheet, and a cot that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). You might feel tempted to place them on a plush and fluffy surface, but that’s a bad idea.

Soft surfaces can increase the chance of SIDS and suffocation. Any surface that inclines more than 10 degrees, like swings, rockers, and bouncers, isn’t recommended for sleep either. Your baby could get into a dangerous position that blocks their airway.

3. Use a Cot That Meets Safety Standards

An important step in safe sleeping for newborns and babies is to check that the crib you’re looking to buy checks all the boxes in the safety standards set by CPSC.

Certain types of cribs, like ones with drop side railing, have been a no-no since 2012 because of the high risk of your baby slipping out.

What does it take for a crib to be considered safe for babies? Besides it being a CPSC-compliant, make sure the crib slats are not more than two ⅜ inches apart, and there are no cutouts in headboards or footboards where your baby’s body or head can get trapped. 

To enhance safety, use at least four-inch-high bumper pads. If you’re buying a secondhand crib, check for broken parts, cracks, or missing hardware.

Remember to position the crib away from window covering cords, baby monitor wires, and electrical devices—anything that can pose a choking hazard.

4. De-Clutter the Cot

When it’s time for your baby to sleep, make sure there’s nothing in the cot except the mattress, a fitted sheet, and your baby.

No pillows, mattress toppers, bumper pads,  blankets, or stuffed toys tucked into the corner, no matter how adorable it makes the nursery look.

The risk of SIDS is high if babies have their heads covered. AAP doesn’t even recommend having positional sleeping aids in the crib. 

All those extra items, including soft and loose bedding, can be a suffocation hazard. You can always dress up your baby in sleep sacks or wearable blankets if you’re worried about them feeling cold.

However, avoid too many layers as it can cause overheating. Ideally, dress them in only one layer more than you’re wearing.

5. Say No to Co-Sleeping

Nothing is safer than letting your infant sleep in their crib. And it’s definitely not a good idea to share a bed with them. Associated with increasing the risk of SIDS, co-sleeping can also create situations where you can roll over onto your baby in your sleep, unknowingly injuring them.

Co-sleeping is particularly dangerous for babies less than four months old or those born premature and underweight. The risks also go up because of all those soft and lumpy pillows and blankets in your bed. If you fall asleep on the bed while feeding, remember to move the baby to their crib as soon as you’re up.

6. Have the Baby Sleep in Your Room

Bed sharing may not be a good idea, but having the baby’s crib in your room certainly is. It’s pretty common for new parents to wonder if their baby is sleeping all right. You’d want to keep checking on them throughout the night.

Instead, just move their cot to your room, at least till they turn one. According to AAP, placing the baby’s crib or bassinet in your room can reduce the risk of SIDS by a staggering 50%. It’s not only safer for your baby but also makes feeding and monitoring them easier for the parents.

7. Don’t Smoke Around the Baby

When you have a newborn in the house, keep your home and car smoke-free. That means avoiding smoking or vaping around the baby or exposing them to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke, in particular, contains harmful chemicals that can affect your baby’s developing lungs. If keeping the entire home isn’t possible smoke-free, make sure the baby’s room is. Babies with high exposure to smoke are at a significantly higher risk of SIDS.

8. Swaddle the Baby

A soft muslin swaddle blanket is wrapped around the baby to create a snug, womb-like environment. It not only helps them sleep and nap more soundly but also keeps the newborn startling reflexes at bay. But there are a few things you must bear in mind while swaddling your baby.

First off, make sure the swaddle isn’t too tight or loose. It should maintain their position while allowing them to wiggle and breathe deep breaths.

Take care to place a swaddled baby off to sleep on their back. Avoid swaddling once they’ve started rolling over. You wouldn’t want a swaddled baby rolling over onto their tummy. It simply isn’t safe!

9. Don’t let your baby get overheated

This may surprise you, but your baby only needs just one extra layer than you’re wearing to stay warm and comfy.

Even if you’ve taken care to dress your baby properly, keep an eye out for telltale signs of overheating, like excessive sweating, flushed skin, and rapid breathing.

Studies show that overheating is a major risk factor for SIDS. Besides too much clothing or bedding, a hot room can also trigger heat stress for babies.

10. Opt for a Firm Mattress

The best place for a newborn to drift off to sleep is in a no-frills crib with a firm, flat, and tight-fitting mattress. Lumpy surfaces, on the other hand, can create soft air pockets your baby’s face can fall into, blocking their airflow.

A well-fitted mattress will also ensure there are no gaps between the mattress and the cot’s sides where a baby’s head can get trapped.

11. Try Offering Baby a Pacifier

Not all babies enjoy a pacifier, but if your little one does, then you’ll be pleased to know that AAP considers it effective in lowering the risk of SIDS.

In fact, in their latest update on safe sleeping, AAP also mentions that the protective effects of a pacifier continue even if they fall out of their mouths.

However, it recommends delaying offering the pacifier to breastfed infants till breastfeeding has been established. That means a good milk supply, easy latching, and weight gain are on track for the baby.

If you’re offering a pacifier to your little one, never hang it around their neck when they’re sleeping.

12. Feed your baby breast milk

In an update on Safe Sleep Guidelines, AAP has associated breastfeeding with reducing the risk of SIDS. It recommends breastfeeding or feeding expressed milk as the only source of nutrition for your baby in the first six months.

Even if exclusive breastfeeding is not possible, know that any amount of breastfeeding is good for the baby.

In fact, research shows that breastfeeding your baby for a minimum of two months can bring down the risk of SIDS by half.

13. Use Soft, Skin-Friendly Organic Cotton Crib Bedding

Your baby’s brand-new skin can get easily irritated by rough or synthetic textiles, mainly because of the chemicals used in production. Synthetic fabrics are also not known for being breathable.

It’s a good idea to cover the crib mattress with a soft, airy, and hypoallergenic sheet made from 100% organic cotton. Remember to check the dimensions of the sheet and buy one that fits your crib mattress perfectly.

14. Keep The Room Cool

We mentioned that the risk of SIDS can shoot up if the sleep environment is too hot. It’s important to avoid overdressing or covering the baby’s head. It’s equally crucial to ensure the room temperature is neither too hot nor too cool.

Experts recommend maintaining the room temperature between 68 - 72 degrees Fahrenheit for safe and sound sleep.

15. Never Sleep On the Couch With Your Baby

Of all the places your baby can doze off on, a couch might just be one of the worst. A study concluded that sleeping with the infant on a couch or soft armchair bumps up the risk of infant death by 22 to 67 times.

Sure, a couch is a great place to feed, comfort, and bond with the baby, but as it is far more lumpier and plush than cribs or beds, sleeping on a couch can be a suffocation hazard.

Soft surfaces like these create air pockets where your baby’s face can get trapped, impacting their breathing.

Final Thoughts

The first year of a baby’s life can be emotionally, mentally, and physically draining for parents and caregivers. You want to make sure you’ve done everything you could to ensure the safety of your baby.

We hope the recommendations here will help you create a safe, blissful sleep environment for your baby. It also goes without saying that all practices on this list also apply during nap times. 

If you’re looking for crib bedding, make sure to explore our vast collection of gentle, hypoallergenic, and breathable baby-friendly sheets, swaddles, and beautifully knit blankets - all made from pure and high-quality organic cotton.

Don’t hesitate to check with a pediatrician should you have any concerns or questions.

Author: Karen Lamar

Karen is the Chief Content Officer at Organic Cotton Mart. She has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from NC State with a special focus in Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. Since her High School days, she has been an Environmentalist and was the President of her High School's Environmental Club for 3 years before starting her freshman year at NC State. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of various environment-friendly movements like zero waste, minimalistic living, recycling, and upcycling.

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