Approximately 3,500 infants die each year in the United States from sleep related infant deaths, according to the CDC.
Although new parents are naturally vigilant, it’s always good to have some research-backed recommendations on hand for ensuring safe sleep. We’ve laid out some of the most important tips and points of guidance for families who want to create safe and healthy sleep environments for their infants.
Key Facts about Baby Sleep Safety
- Approximately 3,500 infants die each year in the United Started from sleep related infant deaths
- Most SIDS deaths happen in babies between 1 month and 4 months of age, and the majority (90%) of SIDS deaths happen before a baby reaches 6 months of age
- A large percentage of infants who die of SIDS are found with their head covered by bedding
- The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that sleep problems affect 25 to 50 percent of children
- Disruption of sleep may affect cognitive development and growth, and a child's sleep problems may become a significant family stressor
What is SIDS?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death, is a sudden medical disorder that can happen to an infant who seems healthy. Incidents often come without any warning and usually take place when the baby is sleeping.
The cause of SIDS is not the cribs themselves, but certain conditions within the crib environment can influence sleep-related causes of death. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but many believe it to be caused by issues with how the baby is able to respond to certain stressors, as well as how they are able to regulate their own heart rate, breathing, and temperature.
Certain natural characteristics can also increase vulnerability to SIDS, including the body weight of your child, any underlying health conditions, and whether they were born prematurely.
As such, the best way to reduce the chance of SIDS and ensure safe sleep for babies is to create the perfect conditions for safe baby sleep, such as removing any environmental stressors and staying vigilant as you train your baby to become a strong independent sleeper.
The best way to reduce the chance of SIDS is to create the perfect conditions for safe baby sleep.
1. Place Your Baby on their Back to Sleep
Side sleeping isn’t advised for young babies. This could restrict their ability to breath properly. The best position for them to be in is flat on their back until they reach the age of 1, or until they are strong enough to roll over by themselves.
This is an important milestone that suggests your child’s motor skills and muscles are developed enough to allow them to maneuver themselves around the crib, away from danger or any positions that might be uncomfortable or harder to breathe in.
2. Use a Firm Sleep Surface for Safe Sleep
Beds need to be completely flat and firm, with mattresses that don’t sink or force the baby to roll in any direction. Preferably, tight-fitted sheets should be used to create a smooth, even finish with no creases or folds your child could get trapped in.
Generally, infants shouldn’t sleep on sofas or other items of furniture like bean bags (no matter how cute it looks), especially when left unattended. Even firm armchairs could allow your baby to roll or sink into a corner preventing them from being able to breathe properly.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Unless there are specific reasons you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, it is advised that mothers feed their infants with breast milk or milk that is expressed into a bottle.
Nonhuman milk-based supplements can eventually be introduced past the age of 6 months, but it is advised to check with your doctor first before using any store-bought brands of formula.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS.
4. Room Sharing
Being close to your baby when they sleep is good. As long as you’re not too close (actually sharing the same bed) being around them can be safer than placing them in another room for a number of reasons. If they wake up crying or you see that they’re having trouble breathing, you can quickly tend to them.
Being close to your baby in the earliest months may also help them to relax and settle more easily, leading to more restful and safe sleep for babies. Equally, being in the same room will make you more attuned to the various conditions that may be disruptive to your child, such as noises, lighting conditions, and even smells.
5. Keep Cribs Bare
You must fight the urge to cover your little one in soft blankets and cuddly toys. Infants’ cribs should be completely bare until the age of 1 when you are then allowed to place soft objects such as pillows and pillow-like toys inside the crib.
If you are worried about them being cold, consider dressing them in warmer outfits or adjusting the temperature of the room. For example, our fleece Zipadee-Zips are a great way of ensuring your child is cozy and warm during cold weather without the need for blankets.
6. Consider Using a Pacifier
Some studies have reported the protective effect of pacifiers when it comes to SIDS. It’s okay if the pacifier falls out once your child nods off, just don’t try to reinsert it. Also, it’s best not to choose pacifiers that attach to the infant in any way, such as with strings or bands.
7. Don’t Overheat or Bundle
Over-bundling with too many sheets or garments can cause your baby to overheat. When they have a hard enough time regulating their own temperature, this is obviously something you should avoid. Again, the best solution here is to choose appropriate clothing for your child to sleep in and adjust the temperature of the room.
Most experts also recommend that safe sleep for babies requires room temperatures between 68–72°F (20–22.2°C). Also, for an even better sleeping environment, consider using a fan to circulate air more effectively in the room, distributing heat more evenly.
If you want to know how you can find and purchase the best and safest baby sleepwear for your child online, take a look at our blog post: The Ultimate Guide to Buying Baby Clothes Online.
8. Avoid Smoking Near Babies
Smoking around babies can be harmful and increases the risk of SIDS. There are also guidelines recommending that pregnant women should avoid smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use during pregnancy. It’s usually best to check whether any medication used by the mother could have a negative effect on the baby’s development.
9. Don’t Swaddle for Too Long!
Generally, swaddling is an effective and safe practice used by millions of parents around the world. However, it’s important that you phase out the swaddle as your child gets older. This is usually when your child is around 3-4 months and their motor skills develop to the point that they can start to roll over.
Swaddling past this stage could increase the risk of SIDS, potentially causing them to suffocate if they find themselves trapped once rolled over onto their front. Swaddling for too long has also been linked to hip dysplasia.
Signs You Need to Stop Swaddling
Baby Rolling Over?
Swaddled babies shouldn’t sleep face down as ‘face down sleep’ has been known to increase the chance of suffocating and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Babies shouldn’t be left alone with loose blankets in their crib. If your baby is consistently breaking free of the swaddle each night, this is a good time to start transitioning.
If your little one shows clear signs that they’re unhappy when you use the normal swaddle method, start the transition!
Try Swaddle Transition Products
Putting your baby in a sleepsuit is an effective method to transition out of a swaddle when your child still craves the protective womb-like comfort of the swaddle.
Some suits (sometimes referred to as a baby sleepsuit, baby sleep sack, or wearable blanket) like our own Zipadee-Zips, are designed to offer extra mobility while retaining the enclosed comfort of the swaddle.
The Zipadee-Zip is also a great blanket alternative to keep little ones warm, especially with our new fleece collection!
Top Tips for Safe Sleep for Babies
Daytime habits will also influence the quality of your child’s sleep. General best practices for sleep can keep your child healthy as well as reduce the chance of them suffering from baby insomnia and common sleep problems that might crop up.
- Regulate temperature throughout your whole home, not just the baby’s room. This can help to prevent fluctuations at different times of the day and maintain your child’s general temperature
- Use dark curtains or black-out curtains to block out light that could disrupt your child’s sleep
- Make sure that there are no loose items in their crib. This includes small blankets or cuddly toys
- Take steps towards teaching sleep independence to your little one so they are not dependent on external props or products for sleep
- Give your infant plenty of tummy time to strengthen their neck and master their baby milestones for greater flexibility and mobility
- Keep a regular bedtime and implement consistent night time checks into your schedule
- Consider a transitional swaddle item such as a Zipadee-Zip to help the baby feel more secure at night, while still allowing them to roll around as much as they like.
The term SIDS has some quite heavy connotations, but there are a number of ways to seriously lower the chance of it happening with your child. These same practices are also good habits to adhere to as you help your little one develop strong sleeping skills and independence.
Finally, learning about SIDS and safe sleep for babies is important for all caregivers, not just for parents. So if your brother, sister, grandparent, babysitter, or anyone else takes care of your child for any significant amount of time, don’t be shy to send them a link to this blog!