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Answers to Common Safe Sleep for Baby Questions

Atrium Medical Center answers frequently asked questions about safe sleep for baby.

What is SIDS?

SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome – is an unexplained death of an infant younger than 1, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

SIDS is the leading cause of death of infants between 1 month and 1 year old, according to the NIH. These deaths most often happen when babies are 2 months to 4 months old.

A “Back to Sleep” campaign – promoting always putting infants to sleep on their backs – began in the early 1990s, and since then, the rate of SIDS in the United States has decreased by more than 50 percent, according to the NIH.

SIDS is one component of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which encompasses the variety of ways death can occur suddenly and unexpectedly in an infant younger than 1.

Other causes of unexpected infant deaths included in SUID include accidental suffocation, entrapment and positional asphyxia, all of which can be prevented by ensuring your baby’s sleep area and position are safe.

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician for more details about preventing SIDS and SUID situations in your home.

How should I lay my baby down to sleep? Why?

Sheree Young, RNC, the HEAL Program Coordinator at Atrium Medical Center, discusses safe sleep for concerns for baby. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

All babies should be laid on their back to sleep. Sleeping on the back instead of on the stomach helps avoid SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome – an unexplained death of an infant younger than 1, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Years ago, people were concerned that babies on their backs could choke if they spit up. Today, it is understood that infants are built to swallow spit up without choking, even when on their backs.

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician for more details about why at naptime and nighttime, back sleeping is best for all babies.

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What bedding should be in my baby’s crib?

Sheree Young, RNC, the HEAL Program Coordinator at Atrium Medical Center, discusses safe sleep for concerns for baby. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

Your baby’s crib should be fit with a firm, safety-approved mattress and a snug but well-fitting, fitted sheet.

Though many crib bedding sets include stuffed rail bumpers, flat sheets and quilts or comforters, these items are not safe to put in the crib with your baby. Bedding like this can cause a suffocation risk to your baby.

Pillows, no matter how big or small, stuffed animals and other stuffed toys or comfort items also should not be left in the crib while you baby is sleeping, because they too can be suffocation risks.

The U.S. Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have warned against using sleep positioners – products that are sold to attempt to keep babies on their back while sleeping. Though these positioners might seem like a good idea, they also pose a suffocation hazard to your baby if your baby does roll over or gets his or her head caught the wrong way.

Your baby’s pediatrician can give you more information about what bedding is safe for your baby’s crib.

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Can my baby sleep safely in bed with me?

Sheree Young, RNC, the HEAL Program Coordinator at Atrium Medical Center, discusses safe sleep for concerns for baby. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

It is good for bonding and easy care-giving that your baby sleeps near you but separate from you.

Parents are encouraged to have babies sleep in their bedroom, but it is not safe for your baby to sleep in your bed with you.

If you bring your baby into your bed for a middle-of-the-night feeding, be sure to put your baby back in a separate sleep area after the feeding.

Check with your baby’s pediatrician for more information about keeping your baby near your bed instead of her in your bed while sleeping.

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What are options for keeping my baby close to me at night?

There are many safe options for where your baby can sleep nearby you but not directly in your bed.

Safe sleep locations for baby include:

  • Bassinet
  • Crib
  • Cradle
  • Pack and play
  • Co-sleeper, an infant bed that attaches to an adult bed

If your baby does sleep in another room, use a monitor to hear when he or she wakes up.

Share any safe sleep concerns with your baby’s pediatrician for more information about options that might work best for your family.

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How can I make sure my baby is warm enough while sleeping?

Keep your baby warm by dressing him or her in a full-body sleeper or in a zip-up blanket, often called a sleep sack.

Babies do not need to be kept overly warm. To avoid overheating, keep your home temperature at a comfortable level for a lightly clothed adult.

Your baby should not be covered with a blanket while sleeping. Putting loose bedding in your baby’s sleep area can increase the risk of suffocation.

Talk to your pediatrician for more information about keeping your baby comfortable while sleeping.

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What if my baby rolls over while sleeping?

It is important to always place your baby on his or her back to sleep.

Until your baby learns to roll both ways – back-to-front and front-to-back – you should reposition your baby back onto his or her back during the night for the safest sleep. It is easiest to keep track of repositioning of your baby’s sleep area is in the same room as you.

Your baby’s movement makes it important to remember to keep the crib or other sleeping area free of stuffed rail bumpers, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or other toys to avoid suffocation hazards as your baby rolls around while asleep.

Your pediatrician can tell you more about when babies should reach certain growth milestones – like rolling over – and how to keep them safe as they become more mobile.

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Can I give my baby a pacifier while sleeping?

The National Institutes of Health recommends giving babies a pacifier when laying them down to sleep.

Pacifiers at naptime and bedtime can help reduce the risk of SIDS, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If you are a breastfeeding mother, wait until breastfeeding is going well before offering a pacifier – usually about three or four weeks after birth.

Some babies never want a pacifier, and that is OK. If your baby likes a pacifier, but it falls out of his or her mouth while sleeping, you don’t have to worry about putting it back in right away.

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about when might be good times for your baby to use a pacifier.

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My parents said they used to put me to sleep on my stomach, and I was fine. Why has this changed?

Years ago, it was thought that babies would sleep safest on their stomachs so they would not choke if they spit up while sleeping.

Research has shown, however, that babies have a higher risk of choking on their stomachs and that laying babies on their back to sleep is a much safer alternative.

A “Back to Sleep” campaign – promoting always putting infants to sleep on their backs – began in the early 1990s, and since then, the rate of SIDS in the United States has decreased by more than 50 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It is important to make sure caregivers are on the same page as parents when it comes to back sleep. Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs for an occasional nap, for example, are at a very high risk of SIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician for more information about why it is important to put your baby on his or her back to sleep every time.

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What about products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS?

There are some products sold that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents not use these products.

According to the AAP, there are no products that have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS, and some products claiming to reduce SIDS risk actually cause a suffocation hazard.

Some products claiming to reduce the risk of SIDS include:

  • Wedges
  • Positioners
  • Special mattresses
  • Special sleep surfaces
  • Special bumpers

If you have questions about the safety of any baby products, talk to your baby’s pediatrician for more details.

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What toys are safe to put in my baby’s crib for comfort during naps and bedtime?

Your baby’s crib should be kept clear of any toys, stuffed animals or other soft, comforting object.

These objects can be suffocation hazards for your baby.

It is best to put your baby in the crib to sleep with nothing other than a snug fitted crib sheet and comfortable clothes or a sleep sack.

There is not research to show when it is completely safe for children to have other things in their cribs, but many experts agree that there is little risk to a child’s health after they turn 1, according the to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For more information about what items, including toys, are OK to have in your baby’s crib, talk with you pediatrician.

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What type of mattress should I use for my baby’s crib?

The mattress in your baby’s crib should be firm, fit snugly in the crib and safety-approved.

Check to make sure neither your crib nor your mattress have been recalled, and check with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to find out more details about the safety of individual crib mattresses.

Talk with your baby’s pediatrician for more details about choosing the right crib mattress.

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Is it safe for my baby to sleep in a rocker, bouncer, swing or on a baby support pillow?

Sheree Young, RNC, the HEAL Program Coordinator at Atrium Medical Center, discusses safe sleep for concerns for baby. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

Sheree Young, RNC, the HEAL Program Coordinator at Atrium Medical Center, discusses safe sleep for concerns for baby. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript. Embed video:

Babies enjoy motion, like the motion of riding in the car, a bouncer or a baby swing. It is OK for babies who are properly harnessed into a carseat, bouncy seat or swing to sleep there for short periods of time, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that these products not be the main locations for your baby’s naps or night sleep.

It is best for babies to spend most of their sleeping time on their backs in cribs, a pack and play or a bassinet.

Baby support pillows are not supposed to be used for babies to sleep on. These pillows were created to be used help support your baby during supervised play time and some during nursing.

Baby support pillows, just like other pillows, can be a suffocation risk to babies if left in sleep areas.

Talk to you doctor is you have more questions about where your baby should sleep.

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How does smoking affect infant sleep?

Smoking during pregnancy is one of a few factors that can increase a baby’s risk of SIDS after birth.

Factors that could increase SIDS risk include:

  • Mothers smoking during pregnancy
  • Secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy
  • Mothers receiving later or no prenatal care

It is always a good idea to keep all children away from people who are smoking and to have a smoke-free living environment and transportation.

Talk to your pediatrician for more information about how smoking can affect your baby, and talk to your physician if you need details about smoking cessation programs.

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Thanks to Atrium Medical Center for answering these common questions about safe sleep for baby:

Sheree Young, RNC, Program Coordinator
Atrium Medical Center’s HEAL Program

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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