Setting up a safe sleep environment

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

Creating a safe sleep environment that changes with your child’s age and developmental stage is essential. The American Academy of Pediatrics states guidelines for safe sleep for infants through age 1 to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), suffocation or entrapment. Familiarizing yourself with these guidelines will help to keep your baby safe and happy, not to mention give you greater peace of mind:

  • Sleep on the back – place your baby on her back for sleep at night and for naps. You can practice tummy time during the day when your child is awake and you are present to monitor her to strengthen her neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Designated sleep space – your baby should have her own sleep space with a firm mattress and a tight-fitting sheet. Crib bumpers, blankets, loose bedding, toys, or clothing should never be in your baby’s sleep environment. These items should stay out of the crib for older babies and toddlers too, as more mobile toddlers can manipulate anything to climb out of their crib and risk falling.
  • Breastfeed if possible – research indicates that breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your child’s life helps decrease the risk of SIDS.
  • Pacifiers – gently offer your baby a pacifier as she falls asleep (not while she’s sleeping) at nighttime and during naps to reduce the risk of SIDS. But don’t force the pacifier if she’s not interested. For breastfeeding babies, wait until after the first month to introduce a pacifier so that her breastfeeding habits are well-established.
  • Room share – the AAP does not recommend bed sharing, but does recommend room sharing. Use a bassinet or bedside co-sleeper in your room so that you are near your infant as she sleeps, but not sharing the same sleeping surface.
  • No smoking – smoking in a baby’s environment can lead to an increased risk for SIDS.
  • Temperature control – our body temperatures naturally drop during sleep and a cool room makes for the best sleep. Dressing your baby in breathable clothing for sleep will help prevent overheating. You can check your baby’s core temperature by placing two fingers down the back of her neck. Her skin should feel warm and dry.

For even more tips on how to create a safe sleep environment as your baby grows, read What to Do.

What to Do

Check your baby’s sleep environment each and every time you put her to bed for a nap or for the night

Check for loose items in the crib, like blankets or toys. Also check for cords from devices or window blinds, which can pose strangulation hazards.

Change the height of the crib as your baby grows

Lower the crib mattress as your baby becomes more mobile, even before she can pull to her knees or stand.

Transfer your baby to a toddler bed once she can climb out of the crib

Toddlers are known escape artists, so you’ll want to keep her entire room as safe a space as her crib, toddler bed or sidecar. Bolt all the furniture to the walls and remove any extraneous toys or other items. Cover electrical outlets and use safety outlets on the windows. A gate at the door or at the top of the stairs may also be necessary.

Communicate the sleep safety guidelines with your child’s caregivers

Tell anyone who is watching your child (grandparents, babysitters, day care providers) about the safe sleep environment guidelines. You’ll all want to be on the same page for safe sleep!