How can I create a safe sleep environment for my baby?
Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby will lower the risk of injury and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is when an otherwise healthy baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. With SIDS, there is no known cause, even after a full investigation, including a full autopsy.
SIDS is less common in babies whose parents do not smoke — especially babies whose mothers don’t smoke during pregnancy. It’s less common in babies who sleep on their back.
For the first 6 months, the safest place for your baby to sleep is on his back, in a crib in your room. Having your baby close to you will make nighttime breastfeeding easier, and may help protect against SIDS.
Here are some other tips:
- Starting from birth, and for the first year of life, place your baby to sleep on her back at night time and for naps. Do not use sleep positioners or rolled up blankets to keep your baby on her back. These items can cause your baby to suffocate. When she can turn over on her own, you don’t need to return her to the back position.
- Use a firm, flat surface for sleep. Waterbeds, air mattresses, pillows, couches/sofas, armchairs, baby hammocks or soft materials are not safe sleep surfaces for babies. Babies can turn onto their side or stomach and bury their face in these soft materials, not getting enough air to breathe. Car seats, strollers, swings, bouncers and infant carriers should not replace the crib for your baby’s sleep.
- Keep your baby’s crib completely empty except for the crib’s mattress and fitted sheet. Keep soft materials out of your baby’s sleep environment. Items that should not be in the crib include quilts, comforters, heavy blankets, bumper pads, stuffed animals, pillows and other pillow-like items.
- Make sure your baby is not too warm. Instead of a blanket, use light sleeping clothing such as a one-piece sleeper, if the room is cool. Use a thin, lightweight and breathable blanket if needed.
- Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke. Babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant, and who are exposed to smoke after birth, are at increased risk of SIDS. Choose a non-smoking caregiver for your baby.
- Place your baby’s crib away from windows, window coverings and blind cords.
- Do not put your baby to sleep wearing a necklace or pacifier on a long cord.
- Be sure your baby’s crib meets Health Canada’s most current safety standards. If your room is too small for a crib, use a cradle or a bassinet that also meets current Health Canada’s safety standards or contact the nearest Consumer Product Safety Office. Information can be found here
- A playpen is not a safe alternative to a crib for unsupervised sleep. Babies have died as a result of a playpen collapsing or from getting trapped between a playpen and an accessory when left alone.
Some parents decide to bedshare, which means sleeping on the same surface with their baby.
Adult beds are not designed with infant safety in mind. That’s why they are not the safest place for babies to sleep. Adult beds increase the risk of SIDS or suffocation:
- A baby can become trapped in a space between the mattress and the wall, or between the mattress and the bed frame.
- A baby can fall off a bed.
- An adult or an older child can roll over and suffocate a baby.
- Soft bedding, such as comforters or duvets, can cover a baby’s head and cause overheating. Babies who get their head covered during sleep are at increased risk of SIDS.
- Co-sleeper products (infant bed that attaches to an adult bed) are not recommended by Health Canada.
Never lie down or sleep with your baby on a couch, sofa or armchair. Do not let your baby sleep alone, or with another person, on a couch, sofa or armchair. A baby can become trapped down the sides or in the cushions and suffocate.
When you’re breastfeeding, having your baby near you makes night time feedings easier. When you bring your baby into bed with you to breastfeed, it’s easy for both of you to fall asleep, especially when you are lying down.
Here are some important points to consider before taking your baby into bed with you:
- Smoking during pregnancy or after the baby is born increases the risk of SIDS, especially if you share a bed with your baby and even if you never smoke in bed.
- If you fall asleep with your baby, you may not be able to wake up easily and respond to him. This is more likely to happen if:
- You have had alcohol to drink.
- You have taken any drugs (legal or illegal) that could make you very sleepy.
- You are extremely tired (more than usual).
Remember that the safest way for your baby to sleep is always on his back, in the crib, next to your bed.
Dr. Shirley Blaichman is a general paediatrician in the Montreal area and a member of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Public Education Committee.
For more information on your child’s growth and development, get answers from Canada’s paediatric experts www.caringforkids.cps.ca or www.soinsdenosenfants.cps.ca. You can also find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/caringforkids.cps.ca and on Twitter @CaringforKids or @soinsenfants.