October is SIDS Awareness Month and while it’s a terribly unpleasant thing to think about (more like every parent’s worst nightmare), it’s important to know what you can do to prevent it. Knowledge is power, right? So, today we’re sharing 7 steps to prevent SIDS from our good friend and sleep expert, Kim West (aka “The Sleep Lady”).
#1 “Back to Sleep.”
Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep—both at naps and at night. Side and tummy positions are not safe. This is absolutely essential to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Once your baby rolls over consistently backward and forward you won’t be able to keep him on his back all the time, unless that’s his preferred sleeping position, so make sure he has enough room to move around and no unsafe items in his crib. Unsafe items include quilts, loose blankets, pillows, soft or pillow-like bumpers, stuffed animals or toys with pieces that can come off, pillows, and soft bedding.
#2 Babies should sleep on a firm surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a tight-fitting crib sheet.
Never place your baby to sleep on pillows, quilts, sheepskins, or other soft surfaces. Infants should never sleep or nap on adult beds, water-beds, sofas, or soft mattresses.
They also soothe infants. Talk to your pediatrician about when to start—and stop—the pacifier. Many doctors advise using a clean pacifier when putting the infant down to sleep, although you shouldn’t force the baby to take it. If you are breastfeeding, wait about four to six weeks before introducing the pacifier. Many parents stop the pacifier after six months, so the baby doesn’t get so accustomed to falling asleep with something in his mouth. (Medical advice has changed frequently over the years, so make sure you raise this topic with your doctor and check back as the child gets older.)
#4 Skip the sleep positioning products.
You’ll see numerous devices and gadgets on the market designed to maintain sleep positions, but they have not all been tested for safety and efficacy and are not recommended. Generally, avoid them. If you have some specific concern about your child’s sleep position or movement, talk to your doctor.
#5 Do not let your baby overheat during sleep.
Keep room temperatures at what would be comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. Once you stop swaddling your baby, use a sleep sack or blanket sleeper. If the bedroom is cooler, use two sleep sacks or place one over the pajamas or onesies. (Cloud b’s innovative Lullabag helps baby maintain a comfortable, constant temperature to ensure safe and sound sleep. And, the patented two-way zipper provides easiest access without waking baby.)
#6 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you not let your baby sleep in a bed or on a couch or armchair with adults or other children.
But it’s fine to have an infant close by in your room, particularly in the early months. See my advice on room-sharing in Chapter 12 in “Good Night, Sleep Tight“ for more information. If you bring your baby in bed with you to breastfeed, put him back in a separate sleep area, such as a bassinet, crib, cradle, or a bedside co-sleeper (infant bed that attaches to an adult bed) when finished. When baby starts to roll and move in his sleep, graduate to a standard crib for better—and safer—sleeping. Beds that are perfectly safe and comfortable for adults or older children can be very hazardous for babies. Soft bedding and other items in the adult bed increase the risk of SIDS and suffocation, especially for young babies. A baby or small child can also fall from the bed or get trapped between the mattress and the structure of the bed (the headboard, footboard, side rails, and frame), between the bed and the wall or nearby furniture, or even between railings in the headboard or footboard. Fatalities have been documented.
If you do choose to have your baby in the family bed, understand all the bedsharing safety rules and always follow them. Parents who do have a baby in bed with them for even part of the night must never smoke or use substances, such as alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs that make you sleep heavily), that may impair arousal, making them less aware of their baby’s needs or position in the bed.
#7 Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that you do not smoke around your baby and should not allow anyone else to smoke around your baby.
Smoking exposure may increase the risk of SIDS and other respiratory illness.
Find even more safety tips at TheSleepLady.com.
Note: This advice is primarily for healthy infants. Always talk to your doctor, particularly if your child was premature or has any health problems or unique circumstances. Recommendations have changed over the years as we have learned more about child safety and development, and they may well change again, so revisit safety issues with your doctor frequently.
This blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.