Safe Sleep Practices for Infants

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It is estimated that about 3500 babies per year die from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other sleep-related causes.  Most parents know infants should be put to sleep on their backs to help prevent SIDS, and deaths from SIDS have dropped dramatically since that advice was first given, but what about where they sleep?  Choosing a safe crib is the first step.  The Consumer Products Safety Committee (CPSC) has been creating safety rules for crib manufacturers since 1982 when they mandated that the rails or slats be no >2-3/8” apart.  New rules came out in 2010 and went into effect for any crib manufactured after June 2011.  The most significant change is that cribs can no longer be made with a drop side because these have occasionally detached from the crib allowing a baby to be caught and die of strangulation.  Also, the mattress supports should have 3 different levels, and the top rails on the side should be at least 26” above the lowest level.   So, obviously, these new guidelines mean you can’t use the crib you slept in!

Now that you know how to choose a crib, there are a number of other factors to ensure your infant is as safe as possible.  The mattress should be firm and fit snuggly in the crib.  The mattress should be covered with a snug fitted sheet. The only other thing that should be in the crib is the baby!  This means no blankets, quilts, bumper pads, pillows, hats, or stuffed toys prior to a year of age.   Updated recommendations in 2022 advise that infants should be on a flat surface, not an incline.  Anything greater than a 10-degree incline is considered unsafe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a newborn share a room with their parents for the first 12 months, but at a minimum at least the first 6 months.  However, there should be no co-sleeping with a parent.  If you want to keep your newborn really close (or don’t have room for a crib) a bassinet, using the same guidelines as the crib, or a bedside sleeper can be used, although the bedside sleepers have not been closely studied yet for any safety issues.

While we are talking about how to make your infant’s sleep environment as safe as possible, it’s worth mentioning that breastfeeding, and also pacifiers, reduce the risk of SIDS.

If all of these recommendations are followed, surely that number of 3500 sleep-related deaths can be reduced!