As a parent or caregiver, one of the best things you can do for your baby is offer a safe sleep environment. We have all heard the tragic stories revolving around Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and while researchers still are unable to pinpoint the exact cause of SIDS, many studies have shown there are precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk.
1. Safe Sleep Space
Your baby should be sleeping on a firm surface such as a crib mattress or bassinet. It is highly recommended that the baby sleeps in the same room as his or her parent(s) until 6 months old. Along with being able to easily check on the baby, sharing a room also promotes breastfeeding and forming a bond between child and parent The baby's sleep space should be free from all pillows blankets, bumpers, soft objects, toys, loose bedding, etc as these items pose the risk of suffocation. Examples of unsafe sleep spaces include, but are not limited to: adult beds, couches, or chairs, even if someone is watching.
2. Sleeping on their Backs
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in 5 SIDS deaths occur when an infant is placed in the care of someone other than the parent and the caregiver puts the baby to sleep on their tummy. Babies who are used to sleeping on their back and are put to sleep on the stomach are 18 times more likely to be victims of SIDS. Placing a baby down on his or her side is just as dangerous as the tummy because they could accidentally roll onto their stomach and won't be able to roll back over. Please do not assume your caregivers, especially older people and young babysitters, know babies must sleep on their backs.
3. Do Not Let Baby Over Heat
Because babies are so tiny and sweet, many people feel the need to keep them extra warm while sleeping. However, the ideal room temperature for a sleeping infant is 68*F. Lightly dress your baby in a sleep sack or swaddle correctly. Once your baby can roll over, he or she should no longer be swaddled. If your baby sweats while sleeping, has flushed cheeks, rapid breathing, or heat rash, they are far too warm.
4. The Benefits of a Pacifier
During both night sleep and daytime naps, babies should be offered pacifiers. Studies have found that pacifiers can reduce the risk of SIDS because they encourage the baby to suck which allows air to be inhaled and exhaled. However, if your baby doesn't take to a pacifier, please do not force it and just try again another time.
Safe to Sleep Campaign: www.nichd.nih.gov
American Academy of Pediatrics: www.healthychildren.org
Smartphone App: SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping