For many military spouses, moving across the country or overseas with a baby is part of the normal mobile military life. For others, the experience is brand new. Whether you are a permanent change of station move veteran or you're brand new to the routine, as a parent it is important to stay vigilant with safe infant sleep practices. Your baby's life depends on it!
Moving with an infant is a demanding process. Did you remember to copy your baby's medical and immunization records? Did you pack enough baby food and formula? Do you have enough diapers to get you to your destination? The list seems endless. While these questions are running through your head, you are also still balancing the demands of the rest of your household, including other children, pets and travel arrangements. The whole PCS process can be exhausting, like many other challenges that can arise during a move, but you absolutely can make sure that your infant stays safe, healthy and properly cared for throughout the trip.
Sleep is something you probably hope your baby will be doing a lot of on the trip, but you need to make sure that all sleep is safe sleep for your baby. With the many things on your to-do list during your PCS, planning for your infant's sleep environment may be one of the most important and, unfortunately, one of the most overlooked.
Placing a baby to sleep in an adult bed, with other children or adults, or on another alternative sleep space such as a couch or chair presents a risk for suffocation, strangulation or a dangerous fall. While you wouldn't consciously do anything to hurt your baby, there is a real danger of you losing track of your baby while you're sleeping, resulting in you rolling over your baby or allowing your baby to roll over the side of the bed.
Since your baby is safest in a crib free of any other objects, take the necessary measures to ensure that you pack or have access to a crib or portable crib any time you stop during your move and when you arrive at your destination. Ensure your crib is safe and secure, and if you are using a portable crib, be sure to check it against safety guidelines for portable cribs.
To help you maintain a safe sleep environment while you are on the move, use the following sleep safety checklist. It's as simple as saying, "Baby S.A.F.E."
- Slats or rails on the crib should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (about the width of a soda can) apart so that your baby's head cannot fit through the slats. Ensure the top rails are locked securely in place and no hardware is exposed. Mesh siding on portable cribs should be no more than 1/4 inch in size with no holes or rips. Always ensure that portable crib sides are firmly locked into place.
- Attire is safer than using a blanket. Make sure that your baby's sleep attire fits properly and is not loose. Forget the pillows, stuffed animals, bumper pads or blankets.
- Fit and firm mattresses are the safest option for your baby. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib, and if you can fit two side-by-side fingers between the side of the crib and the mattress, the mattress is too small. A mattress that does not properly fit the crib can pose a risk to an infant who might crawl beneath it. Use only a fitted bottom sheet specifically made for crib use.
- Environment. Be sure to place your baby's crib away from windows, window cords, telephone and electrical cords or anything that your baby can reach or pull on, like lamps or curtains. Pull the crib at least one foot away from all furniture and walls.
Remember that travel can affect every family member's sleep habits, including your infant's. In the midst of a move, your infant may pick up on the disruption and may need extra time falling asleep. During your move, try to be as consistent as possible with your baby's sleep routine and use your baby's crib as a haven of safety and comfort during this hectic time. With these basic precautions, you can rest easy each night of your trip knowing that your baby is sleeping safely.
For additional support, connect with the New Parent Support Program at your installation. If you aren't near a military installation, contact your state's Joint Family Support Assistance Program or Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.