I didn’t realize how many choices I’d have to make about my baby’s sleep until I got pregnant. Of course I knew babies needed a place to sleep and had seen pretty nursery pictures with a crib but I hadn’t given it much thought beyond that. Once I was pregnant though I wanted to make sure I made the best choices possible to keep my baby safe. And when baby boy made his arrival I found a lot of my new mom anxiety stemmed from wanting to be sure he was safe while sleeping. Understanding the recommendations on baby sleep and making the best choices for my little guy became of utmost importance. And I’m here to pass on some of that to you!
Please know that nothing I’m sharing is said to scare or overwhelm you. As a parent you’ll want to do your own research and speak to your pediatrician about any sleep concerns you have. But this will hopefully give you a good place to start to be sure your little one is sleeping safely.
Choosing a Flat Surface
First things first, you’ll want to be sure you have somewhere for your baby to sleep besides just your arms. When choosing what type of space your little one will sleep in you want to ensure that the sleep space is flat. Even babies with reflux should sleep on a flat surface. It is not recommended to let babies sleep in containers like a swing, bouncer or their car seat (unless properly installed in the car). This is due to the potential for positional asphyxiation which young baby’s are at a higher risk for. I am not saying not to use these baby items ever. I have all of these and love to use them during awake time! But for sleeping, you’ll want to have a surface that is flat and designed for infant sleep. Some good options are an infant crib, bassinet, a pack n’ play or mini crib.
Keep the Mattress Firm
While you may enjoy an extra plush mattress for yourself, your baby will be safest on a firm mattress. This helps reduce the risk of suffocation while also offering the best support for their still developing skeletal structures. We love our Newton breathable mattress because it meets the safety standards of being firm AND it is extremely breathable and completely washable! Check it out here!
Lose the “Extras”
You might be tempted to add decorative crib bumpers, special blankets or stuffed animal to your child’s sleep space. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies sleep by themselves in a crib with no loose covers and without anything added to the sleep space. This includes adding in an extra mattress to the pack n’ play. I know it seems like the mattress it comes with isn’t very comfortable but adding an additional mattress could pose potential suffocation risks to your sleeping baby.
Always on their Back
When laying your baby in their sleep space you always want to lay them down on their back. There may be family members that insist it’s safe to lay them on their tummy because that’s how they did it. However, the current guidelines say that on their back is safest for the first year. Now as your baby gets older and learns to roll they may roll themselves to their belly and that’s ok! If they have good head control and can roll themselves there it is safe to leave them but you should still lay them on their back to start with.
Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
Since you shouldn’t add blankets to the crib you might be wondering how to keep your baby warm. Swaddles and sleep sacks are safe alternatives to loose covers. When swaddling you’ll want to be sure you do it correctly for it to be safe. It should be snug but you should still be able to fit your hand between baby and swaddle. You want the lower half to be loose enough that their legs can move which is important for hip development. Velcro swaddles can simplify it for a new mom!
Swaddling can help babies feel secure while also reducing their Moro reflex but is not required so it’s totally fine to skip it. If you do swaddle you’ll need to ditch it once your baby shows signs of rolling usually around 3 months. This is when a sleep sack comes in handy! Also known as a wearable blanket, it offers extra warmth and allows baby the use of their arms while still limiting the suffocation risk of a traditional blanket.
Share a Room
Keeping baby in your room is recommended for at least the first 6 months. This decision is a personal one for families so I am simply going to lay out the pros according the AAP for you to consider. First of all, there is evidence that suggests room sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. Room sharing can also make nighttime feeding and changes easier since baby’s bed is right there next to yours! And of course it makes it easier to be more aware of when your baby needs you since you’ll be more likely to wake when they do. I remember as a brand new mom I loved having him right next to me because I felt like it eased my anxiety having him next to me.
I know it can feel overwhelming to be in charge of the safety of another person. They’re itty bitty and so sweet and absolutely precious to you and the responsibility can feel heavy especially to a sleep deprived mama. But if you follow these guidelines you’re on the right track! If you have other questions about safe sleep or about specific products be sure to speak with your pediatrician or visit the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics.