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Ask the Experts: Sleep safety Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: Sleep safety

My baby is due in a month, and I am already stressing about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). I feel overwhelmed with the thought of accidentally putting her in danger, so what can I do to ensure her sleeping environment is as safe as possible?

A: Your fear is completely understandable. You’ve nourished your body and have taken good care of yourself while awaiting her birth. Making one simple error can turn a moment of rest into one of horror. One of the leading causes of infant death is Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), of which the majority are due to accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed.

The 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations on creating a safe sleep environment include:

  1. Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
  2. Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  3. Share a bedroom with parents—but not the same sleeping surface—preferably until the baby turns 1, or at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  4. Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Breastfeeding and use of pacifier have also been found to help against SUDI. It is recommended that the baby is placed back on his/her crib or bassinet immediately after a feeding. Avoid overheating or cooling the baby, and keep her vaccination schedule up to date.

To help with development, provide supervised awake tummy time. Lastly, make sure the infant’s crib is not near dangling cords or window blinds to avoid accidental strangulation as they become more active.

—Sanjie Garza-Cox, MD, MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio