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ABC's of safe sleep: reducing the risk of SIDS

ABC's of safe sleep: reducing the risk of SIDS

While you probably find a bed with cozy covers, propped up with heavenly soft pillows undeniably inviting, the same doesn’t go for your new baby. A baby’s sleep environment plays a direct role in their safety, so much so that unsafe sleep positions and conditions are found to be the most common reasons in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases or infant asphyxiation cases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed ABC’s of safe sleep so parents like you can easily remember these steps and keep their little one snoozing safely!

Your newborn will spend 15 to 18 hours sleeping every day. Although you will be close, not every minute of these hours will be under your watchful eye. You may have chores to complete or your own sleep to catch up on. So it is very important to follow the AAP's safe sleep guidelines as a preventive step against SIDS and other sleep-related deaths. While there could be physiological factors that increase the risk of SIDS, the good news is that you can prevent the most common mistakes parents make simply by listening to your pediatrician and following the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines.

Our safe sleep guide is literally as easy to remember as your A-B-Cs. 

Alone

Without plush friends or loose bedding.

Keep this one in mind when you’re shopping for your baby’s nursery. Although those crib sheets, blankets and throw pillows look super cute, having them in the crib when your baby is sleeping is a no, no according to the AAP. Any loose objects such as bedding, pillows, blankets, toys, and even bumpers create a greater risk for entrapment and/or suffocation. Save your money and stick with just a fitted crib sheet and wearable blanket, like the Zen Sack.

From the experts

“Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby's sleep area. These include pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, blankets, large toys, plush toys, bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides"

Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP, healthychildren.org

In your room but not in your bed.

Co-sleeping is common and convenient, so it’s easy to understand why some families do it– but it also poses a risk. Regardless of what you choose to practice in your home, it’s important that parents understand the potential risks of co-sleeping so they can make an informed decision for their family.

According to the AAP, bedsharing poses several risks to babies and is not recommended for their safety. Adult mattresses are usually too plush for babies, instead of being the firm surface that’s recommended. The loose pillows and blankets on your bed add additional risk, and there is a chance of injuring the baby when you roll over or move in your sleep.

"Room sharing", however, is encouraged. The AAP recommends that your baby stay in a crib, bassinet, or portable crib in your bedroom for six months to a year. This can reduce the risk of SIDS by nearly 50%, and it can make those night time feedings a little easier.

From the experts

The AAP recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% and is much safer than bed sharing. In addition, room sharing will make it easier for you to feed, comfort, and watch your baby."

Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP, healthychildren.org

on their Back

You’ve probably heard it before – “back to sleep.” It was part of a huge safe sleep campaign in the 90s, but it still rings true today.

Regardless of your baby’s age or preference, you should always place them in their crib or bassinet on their back to sleep. Before babies learn to roll over on their own, being placed on their side or stomach to sleep could put them in a suffocating situation. Since they’re not able to move themselves, they could get stuck in a position that blocks their mouth or airway, leading to suffocation.

Although tummy and/or side sleeping is safe once your baby is able to independently roll over, the AAP still recommends putting them on their back to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

From the experts

Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night. We know babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides."

- Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP, healthychildren.org

Swaddling can help keep your baby on their back when they’re a newborn (and it will also help them sleep better). However, once your baby shows signs of rolling over, you should stop swaddling and transition to a baby sleeping bag so they can use their arms to alter their position.

in a Crib or bassinet

Use a firm sleep surface.

You might enjoy your cushiony mattress, but your baby needs to be sleeping on a firmer surface that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). When we say “firm” we mean pretty hard. When you put your baby down on the crib mattress, bedside sleeper, or bassinet, the surface should not indent. You might see some products claiming to help reduce the risk of SIDS, but the truth is that as long as they are CPSC approved, there is no evidence that any one crib mattress is better than another.

Never put your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, armchair, or in your own bed where the surface is most likely too soft and there are other objects around, like pillows and blankets, that can increase the risk of SIDS for your baby. It’s okay to let your baby fall asleep in a stroller or car seat but try to move them to a firm sleep surface when possible. Just like placing your baby on their back is always the recommended option, putting your baby to sleep on a CPSC approved mattress is always best.

Other important steps you can take

Now that we have covered the most basic ways to help your baby sleep safely, its time to go over some other ways you can beat the odds against SIDS. To learn more, you can read an article where we covered other factors that research links to SIDS. The following are doctor's recommendations based on this research:

  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature. Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Don’t use blankets, but dress your baby in a comfortable PJs and/or a wearable blankets, and keep the thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not smoke. Steer clear of smoking around your baby – even if you’re outside. Try to limit your baby’s exposure to smoke and keep your home and car as smoke-free zones for your baby’s overall health and to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Make time for tummy time. While your baby is awake, practice supervised tummy time to strengthen their muscles, develop their motor skills. This will help them respond to an unsafe circumstance such as head covering simply by moving their head, neck or face away.
  • Always keep your doctor’s appointments. Make sure you’re getting to all your regularly scheduled check-ups with your doctor.

Christina Alario

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