For many new parents, nighttime with a newborn isn’t only tough because of lack of sleep, but because of fear surrounding something terrible happening to their child while they’re seemingly snoozing peacefully in the bassinet.
Sanjie Garza-Cox, MD, MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, says the fear is completely understandable. “You’ve nourished your body and have taken good care of yourself while awaiting her birth, says Cox. Making one simple error can turn a moment of rest into one of horror. One of the leading causes of infant death is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), of which the majority are due to accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations on creating a safe sleep environment include:
- Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
- Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
- 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.
- Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.
Breastfeeding and use of pacifier have also been found to help against SIDS. 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 muscle development, provide supervised awake tummy time.
In addition to best infant sleep practices, there are additional precautions you can take to safeguard baby’s crib so it’s up to safety standards.
Follow these simple steps to up newbie’s crib safety and minimize potential sleep pitfalls.
- Choose a crib that’s in tip-top shape. Your best bet is to buy a new crib versus a used crib for your babe, as crib standards fluctuate. Current standards require crib slats to be no more than 2 3⁄8 inches apart. The crib mattress should fit perfectly inside it, with no gaps between the mattress and crib walls, footboard or headboard. Ensure the finish of the crib is intact (no chipping paint or splintering wood), and remember that drop-side cribs (mostly found in older cribs) are a no-no.
- Keep it free of loose items. Pull a fitted sheet over the firm mattress, and leave it at that. Mattress pads, comforters, blankets and quilts, pillows, bumper pads and any additional bedding can pose a risk for suffocation, strangulation and entrapment, as can toys and stuffed animals. Baby’s clothing should consist of fitted pajamas, and use a wearable blanket if she needs an extra layer to keep warm.
- Place it away from potential hazards. Position the crib away from any windows or radiators in baby’s room to avoid drafts or overheating, and make sure there are no window blind cords or drapery nearby that could wrap around baby’s head and neck. If you’re using a monitor that requires cords, put it out of reach by mounting it on the wall or keeping it on a dresser to safely watch baby’s sleep.
For more information and additional crib safety tips, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website.