Sleep Safety for Infants
Follow these guidelines to ensure safe sleep for your baby.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
All healthy babies should be placed on their backs to sleep throughout their first year, which reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Once your baby has mastered rolling over, he'll choose his own sleep positions. Don't worry by the time your baby is old enough to roll over, the risk of SIDS is significantly reduced.
Overheating and soft bedding are also risk factors for SIDS. Don't put your baby to sleep tightly swaddled or on top of soft bedding. Don't cover him with a heavy blanket or quilt. If you use a thin blanket, place your baby toward the foot of the crib, tuck the blanket around the mattress, and pull the blanket up only to your baby's chest. Don't let the baby sleep on a waterbed, sheepskin, pillow or other soft materials. When your baby is very young, don't place soft stuffed toys or pillows in the crib with him or her.
Infant sleepwear made for sizes 9 months and smaller can be flame resistant or non-flame resistant. Flame-resistant clothing usually is labeled as such and is either a synthetic fiber or treated cotton. Choose flame-resistant sleepwear for your baby, and follow the washing instructions carefully to maintain this property.
Sleepwear in sizes larger than 9 months is required to be either flame resistant or snug fitting. Snug-fitting clothing that conforms to the body has less opportunity to ignite when exposed to a flame than loose-fitting clothing. Smaller sizes are not required to be snug fitting, because a smaller baby is less likely to be mobile enough to expose himself to a fire hazard.
All new cribs are required to meet strict safety standards. If you're shopping for or accepting a secondhand crib, check the following:
The slats should be no farther than two and three-eighth inches apart. Wider slats could allow a baby's head to become trapped between them.
Check for any decorations or projections that could snag a baby's clothes. Avoid cribs with decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard.
Some older cribs were painted with lead-based paint, which could poison a baby who mouths or chews the wood. If you're unsure, strip the old paint and repaint it with new lead-free enamel.
Check all the screws and bolts that hold the crib together; make sure none are missing and all are tight. Avoid cribs with drop side rails. If a drop side rail detaches or becomes loose, an infant may become traped between the mattress and railing.
The crib mattress should be firm and should fit very snugly, with no room for the baby to become trapped between the mattress and the crib. Don't cover the mattress with plastic or a quilt, which can suffocate a baby.
Never put an infant to sleep on a waterbed, pillow, quilt, beanbag chair or sofa. All of these surfaces increase the chance that a baby could suffocate or get his head or another part of his body trapped in the furniture.
Don't put pillows or stuffed animals in an infant's crib, as they can cause suffocation. Crib quilt bumpers also pose a risk for suffocation and should not be used.
When your baby learns to sit, lower the mattress so he can't fall out of the crib. Remove mobiles, and make sure draperies and window blind cords are well out of his reach.
If you use a bassinet for your baby's first weeks, remember that your baby will outgrow it quickly. A too-large baby will make the bassinet unstable. Start using a crib by the end of the first month or when your baby weighs about 10 pounds. All the safety guidelines for cribs also apply to bassinets.
Having a baby sleep with his parents in their adult bed is practiced the world over, but it's not without its problems. Of greatest concern is the baby's safety: It is possible for the baby to roll out of the bed and fall on the floor or for a parent to roll over onto the baby. Other concerns are the parents' need for privacy and the baby's need to learn to fall asleep on his own. If you decide to have your baby sleep with you, discuss the safety and social issues with your pediatrician.
Last updated May 29, 2011