Which sleep positions are safe for your baby?

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

In 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all infants be placed on their backs for sleep, which dramatically reduced the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The AAP continues to publish guidelines to address safe sleep concerns for infants through age 1 to lower the risk of 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 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.

What to Do

Take special care in safely putting your baby to sleep when you yourself are sleepy

If you are drowsy, avoid feeding your baby in an armchair or couch to prevent an increased chance of entrapment or suffocation.And if you bring your baby into bed with you for a feeding, return her to her own sleep space before you dose off.

Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your baby sleeping on her back

If your baby has a specific medical condition that might warrant a different sleeping position, your healthcare provider can make a recommendation after weighing the benefits and risks of the individual situation.

Review 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!