Safe sleep for babies: Near you and on their backs to lower risk of SIDS

October 25, 2016 Providence Health Team

Keep your baby close.

Lay her to sleep in her crib in your bedroom, where you can hear the sounds she makes and listen for her movements, for at least her first six months and preferably for her first year.

That’s one of the updated safe-sleep recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which wants to decrease the approximately 3,500 sleep-related deaths of babies in the United States each year.

And when you lay your baby down for a nap or for the night, put her on her back in a crib with no pillows, no blankets and no stuffed animals. It may seem a little cold, but it’s the safest way for her to sleep.

"We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep," said Rachel Moon, M.D., lead author of the new academy report. "Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous."

Key recommendations for safe infant sleep

The new report is the first update to the academy’s recommendations for safe sleep in five years. The authors noted that the rate of sudden infant death syndrome in the U.S. has declined by more than half since the early 1990s, but SIDS remains the leading cause of death for infants ages 28 days to 1 year.

The academy recommends that parents:

  • Lay their baby to sleep in his or her own bed, close to their own bed, for at least the first six months and ideally for the first year of their child’s life.
  • Place infants on their backs until age 1. Side sleeping is not safe.
  • Use a firm sleeping surface, such as a mattress that fits snugly in a crib, covered only with a fitted sheet.
  • Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from their baby’s sleep area to reduce the risk of suffocation or strangulation.
  • Breastfeed their children, as breastfed babies have a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Consider offering their child a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. For reasons that aren’t clear, a pacifier seems to have a protective effect against SIDS, even if it falls from the baby’s mouth.
  • Avoid alcohol, illicit drug use and exposing their child to smoke, all of which are risk factors for SIDS.
  • Pregnant women should get regular prenatal care and infants should be immunized as recommended.

Parents should try to be vigilant about staying awake while breastfeeding, the authors said.

"If you are feeding your baby and think that there's even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair," said Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., a co-author of the report. "If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed."  

To learn more about SIDS

The academy’s full list of 19 recommendations, including advice for media companies and manufacturers, “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” may be read at the academy’s web site.

The underlying technical report may be found here. A reader-friendly news release and video are also available at the academy’s site.

We have written previously on the subject of SIDS. See “SIDS: Swaddling may increase risk” and “Baby safe: Avoiding crib dangers.”

If you’re expecting a baby or have a new baby at home, talk to your health care provider about steps you can take to help your baby remain safe. You can find a Providence provider here.

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