Infants & Toddlers
August 16, 2016

The ABCs of safe sleep for babies

by The ABCs of safe sleep for babies

Too many parents aren’t getting the message. Guard against sudden infant death with these crucial tips for infant sleep.

One topic that comes up most frequently with excited new moms
is safe sleep.

Despite the conversations, a new study published this week in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests that the safe-sleep messages aren’t reaching many. The study of infants from 1- to 6-months showed that up to 21 percent were initially placed on sleep surfaces that were not recommended, up to 33 percent were placed the wrong positions and up to 93 percent were placed in sleep areas with unsafe, loose items such as stuffed animals and bumper pads.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the number of sleep-related infant deaths in the state is dropping because of statewide efforts; there were 141 sleep-related infant deaths in 2010 and 117 in 2013.  There’s still more work to do here and all around the South. Take a look at the tips below to ensure your new bundle of joy is sleeping safely.

Remember the ABC’s of safe sleep: All babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs and in the Crib.

A: Alone

Never allow other children or pets to sleep in your baby’s crib. In addition, keep toys, pillows, bumper pads and fluffy blankets out of your baby’s crib as well. Consider using a sleep sack to replace the use of blankets.

B: Back

Your baby should always be placed on his/her back to sleep during nap time and at night. Once your baby is able to roll from back to stomach and stomach to back, they may be allowed to remain in whatever sleep position they assume during the night. However, all infants should be placed to sleep on their back until 1 year of age.

C: Crib

Always place your baby to sleep in their own crib, bassinet, or play yard that meets current safety standards. It is important to note that these standards have recently changed. The once popular drop-side cribs are no longer acceptable for use and cannot be sold by retailers. Your baby’s crib should have a firm mattress with a tight fitting sheet. Do not allow your baby to sleep with you in your bed. Learn more about crib safety from our website and get the latest information about current safety standards or product recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Additional tips:

  • Avoid secondhand smoke and smoking during pregnancy.
  • Breastfeed your infant as long as possible. Breastfeeding can help to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • Do not overheat your baby’s room. The recommended temperature is 65 – 72 degrees.
  • Make sure to teach all individuals who may handle your infant about the importance of safe sleep.
  • Share a room with your baby preferably for a year, but for at least six months. The baby should be in his or her own crib. (The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines in October 2016 to include this recommendation.)

You can read more about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep guidelines here.


Is your baby sleeping safely?

Infants, Sleep

23 thoughts on “The ABCs of safe sleep for babies”

  1. Leah says:

    I hate to be a nay sayer but this does not make sense. This article sites sleep position, surface, whether or not a child has blankets, other children etc in their crib with them as ways to avoid SIDS, then says breastfeeding can protect your baby from SIDS. There seems to be no relation between breastfeeding and any of those things which makes me think that no one has any idea what causes SIDS still to this day and they are just grabbing at straws

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Hi Leah, Many studies have been conducted that point to a link between breastfeeding and SIDS. You may read more here: Hope that helps!

    2. Lilly Marlene says:

      You are right, the cause of SIDS is still unknown. What has been identified are risk factors. If you follow the recommendations you reduce the baby’s risk of SIDS – that is the point.

    3. patricia mckinley says:

      i agree with you,, we have lost two children two children in our family the first was 7 months old, she was healthy, beautiful child, my sister came in from work only to find her dead, the second child we woke up at 630am and she was gone she was hone only a month old, she had gone in for her 4 week check up the doctor said she was perfect , and she died that night. so they don’t know what they’re talking about, there just talking to be talking.

  2. James Arrott, M.D. says:

    I just posted on my Timeline on Facebook about the importance of putting babies to sleep on their BACKS and without a lot of stuff in their cribs to avoid the devastating and truly heartbreaking SIDS! When I was in training in pediatrics & dermatology in the late 1970’s & early 1980’s, I saw too many cases of SIDS and the overwhelming heartbreak of grieving parents, other family members, and friends of the babes who died
    so young and so tragically. If just one babe is saved from SIDS, then my effort will be more than worthwhile.

  3. Joan fitzwilliam says:

    My daughter was born 5 lb 2 ozs she was having a mid morning knap , she vomited & bubbles were coming up through the vomit ‘! Luckily a friend was there and whisked her out of the pran & put her fingers in & scooped out her mouth ! If she had been put to bed on her back she would have choked to death !

    1. Alison says:

      I had a cot death in 1987. my son was 5 weeks two days old. He was on his front and overheated. Following this my subsequent three children were on their side at 45* and swaddled in a cotton sheet, on the recommendation of my health visitor I put a rolled up blanket just behind them. They could not roll on to their back but could vomit to the side. They were unable to roll on their front. They slept in a basket next to my bed until they grew out of it , (bassinet). I fed them in bed under the crook of my arm and then put them back into the crib/basket.

      I set up a SIDS support group for parents two years later and we were able to support 12 families with cot death (crib\death-SIDS). This steady advice/ always constant was to reduce cot death and reduce the fear in parents of a second crib death. The breastfeeding, no smoky atmosphere and general recommendations of not sleeping with them in the bed were good common sense to follow. I understand that parents want to have a baby in their bed. There are studies that show parents have rolled onto their children in bed.

      Lying children on their back is a difficult solution , originally I was taughtr to put my first two babies on their front. Tilting the baby was a good compromise. None of this advice is easy to fit into out own parenting ideas. It is given with the sole intention of reducing cot death.

    2. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. We are so sorry to hear of your loss.

  4. Joan fitzwilliam says:

    She always slept on her front after that !

  5. Janet Ann Adams says:

    Well, I only had 1 child who is now 38 years old. Science has come a long way but, unfortunately, science isn’t always right. I would like to know WHY if a baby sleeps on his/her stomach, it is more at risk to die from SIDS. My daughter always slept on her stomach as a baby, as I was taught that would avoid accidental choking.

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      The precise “whys” are elusive. The current recommendation to place babies on their backs stems from a strong correlation that research has found — that babies placed on their stomach are more likely to die from SIDS, and those placed on their backs are less likely to die from SIDS. The research hasn’t pinpointed a specific reason for this, though there are theories. The idea is that placing a baby on his back (as well as taking other safe-sleep steps) reduces the risk of SIDS. We hope research someday identifies a specific cause.

  6. Brittany Toriaun Jackson says:

    I sleep with my child. There is nothing on my bed no pillows covers or even a sheet. I have a big king size bed I have my side and he has his. I have to ask wasn’t it called crib death at first ? So why is it such a big deal to put babies in their own bed? Also how is it called sudden if most cases a baby suffocate? Or chokes on their own spit up? My baby is 4 months I’ll lay him on his back and hes roll to his side? I have moved him to his back but he rolls back to his side? What should I do?

    1. My Southern Health says:

      The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a baby should sleep alone on their back in a crib with a firm mattress. A baby should always be placed in their bed on their back. Once your baby is able to roll from back to stomach and stomach to back, they may be allowed to remain in whatever sleep position they assume during the night. Hope that helps!

    2. Ali says:

      I have bed-share with both my boys, EBF in my firm KING size mattress, with no issues. My little guy was always rolling on his tummy, if he hadn’t been in the bed I wouldn’t have realized it…who knows what could happen. These studies are so frustrating.

    3. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      We know it’s frustrating to be given different advice. The research shows that sleeping in a crib or bassinet in the same room as the parent is fine. Sharing the bed raises a baby’s risk for sleep-related death, because yes, some parents roll over onto the baby or the baby gets tangled in bedding and can’t breathe. That said, the guidelines say that once a baby can roll over on his or her own, you should put them to sleep on their backs and if they roll over later, it’s OK to leave them be. Thanks for your comment!

    4. Lori Kane says:

      Yes, it was called crib death at first but that is because majority of infants are in their cribs. It is a BIG deal to put babies in their own bed because too many parents roll over on top of their infants without knowing it, too many parents say “that will never happen to me”, but it does, my step daughter is living proof that it happens, she buried her 7 week old daughter in 2014 because she was in same bed as her and fell asleep and well, you know the rest. As a child gets older and can move more they can try n get out, or at the least wake you up? Co sleeping is dangerous, unless you have one of the little sleep bassinets that can lay on top of your bed, and it does NOT matter what size bed you have!

  7. Martha jones says:

    As an “ancient” mom, 62 years of age, whose babies were born in the 1970’s, we were indoctrinated into the “put baby to sleep on her stomach so she doesn’t spit up and suffocate from vomit in her lungs” theory. I feel seriously empathetic with today’s new parents who receive such conflicting, anti-intuitive medical advice. I don’t know who is right. It’s difficult, but trust your instincts, and have a long, happy life!

  8. Ali says:

    The book, Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International offers advice about safe sleep with a baby. Breastfeeding and formula feeding definitely varies the risk of SIDS. This study is a little off the nose, more research should be done, bed-sharing CAN be safe. Read up….and increase your study, it’s such a small number of infants that the results are skewed.

  9. jennifer Boehman says:

    both of my boys has slept or sleep in their bouncy seats from day one because they both spit up really bad laying 2 yr old still sleeps in his bouncy chair sometimes

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      Babies fall asleep easily in those bouncy seats, don’t they? We encourage parents to talk with their pediatrician about what’s safe for their own children’s health conditions.

  10. Wanda Tekiela says:

    when both of my children whom were born in the early 1990’s, I was advised to put them to sleep on their sides, so if they did vomit up some milk it would run out of their mouths and they would not choke on it. there were also special pillows available for babies to stop them from rolling on their stomachs or back. I really don’t think the doctors know what actually causes the babies to die in their sleep, i think that they just forget to breathe.

  11. Leah says:

    This is always a touchy subject. I think when we point out to parents certain safety/injury prevention guidelines that are in place, they take that as you pointing out their wrongdoing and they get offended.
    While the information is good and correct information, I just think it’s hard for parents to accept.

    I also think this was a horrible way to begin your article: “Too many parents aren’t getting the message. Guard against sudden infant death with these crucial tips for infant sleep.”
    It actually sounds like you are scolding and blaming parents.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate the information.

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      Thank you for your comment. We got so much feedback on this post. Our team is having an ongoing conversation about how to best present safety advice to parents without making them feel blamed or guilty. That’s certainly not our intention; we’re just aiming to prevent more of these heartbreaking infant deaths. Thank you for reading.

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