How to Create Safe Sleeping Environments for Infants

Make creating a safe sleep environment for your baby a part of your daily life. You can find tips and guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics on their Healthy Children website under Ages and Stages or Safety and Prevention, At Home.

Your baby's crib

Although the death rate from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as "crib death," has been cut in half since 1992 thanks to the use of safety measures recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS is still the leading cause of death of infants between the ages of 1 month and 1 year.

Research has shown that the most important way to reduce the risk of SIDS is to ensure that babies sleep on their back at all times, never on their side or stomach. When they are awake, babies should spend some time playing on their belly to develop their back muscles and provide better support for their sleep position. Take the following steps to ensure your baby sleeps safely in his or her crib.

  • Make sure the crib mattress is firm and flat.
  • Keep the crib clear at sleep times. All cushions, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets and extra sheets belong outside of your baby's crib until your baby is at least a year old and can control his or her movements in the crib.
  • Make sure there are no small objects, strings or wires within reach.
  • Remove mobiles and hanging decorations. As soon as babies are able to get onto their hands and knees, these objects should be removed.
  • Make sure your child's crib meets safety standards. The slats of the crib should be close enough together so your baby's head does not fit between them. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certifies cribs, mattresses, playpens and portable cribs that meet safety standards for infants. If you are buying or receiving used equipment, check to make sure no lead paint has been used on the product. Also, make sure the equipment meets JPMA safety standards for construction and design by checking the JPMA website.
  • Make sure the room is not too hot. If you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash and rapid breathing, the room could be too hot. Use light clothing for sleep and set the room temperature in a range that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
  • Place the crib in an area that is always smoke-free.
  • Use a crib or bassinet for sleeping. Adult beds, chairs, sofas, waterbeds or cushions can increase the risk of accidental suffocation.

Using a pacifier

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents give babies a pacifier when sleeping. New research has shown that sucking a pacifier might help keep vulnerable babies from sleeping too deeply to rouse themselves if they experience any breathing difficulties. Keep the following tips in mind regarding the use of pacifiers.

  • Pacifiers should only be used during your baby's first year.
  • If the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth while sleeping, don't reinsert it.
  • Don't coat the pacifier with anything sweet to make it more appealing to your baby.
  • Don't force your baby to take the pacifier. Some babies just don't like pacifiers, and that's okay. Many other ways exist to keep your baby safe.
  • Wait one month to introduce a pacifier to your baby if you're breastfeeding to make sure that breastfeeding is firmly established.

Experts agree that the safety benefits of using a pacifier outweigh the risk of ear infections and orthodontic issues. Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, if the use of a pacifier is limited to the first year of life, it doesn't increase the risk of misaligned teeth.

Safest place for my baby to sleep

According the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the room where you sleep. Place a bassinet or crib next to your bed or within arm's reach to support breastfeeding or to provide comfort and support. Again, the crib or bassinet should be free from toys, soft bedding, blankets, and pillows. If you bring your baby into your bed for feeding or comfort, put your baby back in the crib or bassinet as soon as he or she is asleep to reduce the risk of accidental suffocation.

Sleeping safely in a car seat

Until your baby is at least a year old and weighs at least 20 pounds, it is important to make sure that your rear-facing car seat is adjusted properly to avoid potential injury to your baby's neck muscles or spinal cord. If your child's head flops forward when he or she falls asleep in the car seat, use instructions from the seat manufacturer to make sure the car seat is tilted as close as possible to a 45-degree angle from the horizontal surface.

Many car seats have built-in angle adjusters. For a seat that doesn't have an angle adjustor, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you tilt the car seat back by putting a rolled towel or other firm padding under the base near the point where the back and bottom of the vehicle seat meet. If you use a car safety-seat insert to keep your baby from slouching down in the seat, only use the insert that came with the seat or one that was made by the manufacturer of the seat.

For information about product safety for infants and young children, visit the Children, Youth and Teens page of Military OneSource. You can find helpful resources and tools on the Parenting page of Military OneSource, as well.



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