Yawning newborn baby in a blue knotted gown

Safe Sleep Practices for Babies

Safe Sleep For Babies (8 Tips)

Where your baby sleeps needs to be the safest place in the house. Your baby spends a lot of time sleeping, and you’re not always there to watch. 

Although you should be catching up on your rest, baby’s naptime may be your only time to get things done, so it may also be the time your baby is most likely to be alone. We’ve all heard the horror stories of beautiful, healthy babies who went to bed and never woke up. Let’s talk about safe sleep.


When we’re talking about baby safe sleep practices, we’re mostly talking about preventing sleep-related infant deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. We don’t really know what causes SIDS, also known as crib death. It may be something to do with a defect in the part of an infant’s brain that controls breathing. We do know a lot about the risk factors, many of which we can control.

Back to Bed

One of the simplest ways that you can decrease the risk of SIDS is by placing your newborn on his or her back to sleep. Pediatricians used to advise side sleeping because they were concerned about babies aspirating spit-up, but that is no longer considered a risk. Never assume; make sure that all babysitters or family members know to only put your baby to sleep on his or her back.

Make Sure Your Newborn’s Bed is Safe

The Crib

First, make sure your crib meets current safety standards. Don’t use an old crib, even if it’s a family heirloom. Check that it isn’t on the Consumer Product Safety Commission callback list. Check it carefully for loose joints or defective parts. Make sure all the screws are tight. Make sure you can’t fit more than two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the sides. Babies can fall into the tiniest cracks and strangle!

If you bought a crib that has to be assembled, make sure all the parts fit together correctly and call the manufacturer if you’re having trouble. An incorrectly put together crib could be deadly.

Although drop-side cribs aren’t necessarily dangerous, more fatalities happen with them because more things can go wrong. Why take a chance?

The Mattress

Your mattress should be flat, firm, and have a tightly fitted sheet on it. If your baby were to be on his or her tummy on soft bedding, it could block that tiny airway.

Innovations like inclined mattresses sound like a good idea because they would keep the head elevated, but according to the CPSC they have a generally bad safety record. Wedges and other devices to prevent infants from moving are also discouraged.

No Clutter In the Bed

There are so many adorable toys, cozy blankets, and pillows for sale, but be aware that soft objects can be fatal to a sleeping baby. Don’t use soft bumper pads, bulky blankets, or pillows, and don’t leave toys or even pets in the bed. Anything could block your baby’s mouth or nostrils.

Never, ever leave anything with cords or strings on it. Unbelievably short strings can cut off a baby’s airway.

Don’t Overheat

Parents don’t want their babies to catch a chill, so many people overdress and cover them with piles of warm blankets. We assume because a baby is small he or she feels the cold more than an adult, but it’s the opposite! Because babies’ arms and legs are shorter than ours in proportion to their bodies, they don’t lose heat as fast as we do.

Overheating is dangerous to babies, and is associated with an increased risk of SIDS. This is probably why SIDS increases during cold weather. A onesie and an armless quilted baby bag allow your baby freedom of movement while keeping the legs and feet warm. If the room is comfortable for you, your baby is fine sleeping lightly dressed. Just check that his or her hands are warm.

Are Pacifiers Safe?

Short answer: Yes. Pacifiers can soothe fussy babies and help them to get to sleep. If your baby likes a pacifier, go for it. While you’ll want to discontinue the pacifier between two and four years, there are no real reasons not to use one. Interestingly, the Mayo Clinic says pacifiers seem to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Get a one-piece design and keep it clean. Keep several so you have a clean one handy when it falls on the floor. Before six months you may want to boil them or run them through the dishwasher, whereas later you can just use soap and water. 

Don’t coat pacifiers with sweeteners, and watch out for wear. Little pieces can choke little persons. Clips or strings on pacifiers can be a hazard.

In the long run, pacifiers are better than thumbs because when the time comes, you can phase it out. Long term thumb or finger sucking can cause dental problems, but only in older children.

Bed Sharing?

As wonderful as it is to sleep with a snuggly infant, bed-sharing can be risky. The statistics are clear. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) says that it’s safest for babies to sleep in their parent’s room but in their own bed. Babies can fall off the parents’ bed or be smothered by blankets, pillows, or even the parent’s body.

Co-sleeper cribs can be attached to your bed so that you can just slide your baby over when you are done nursing and ready to sleep. The danger is that a tired mom could fall asleep with the baby in her bed.

It seems right to keep your newborn close to you, so you know if something is wrong. Statistics do prove that the lowest crib death rates are for children who sleep alone on their backs and share a room with an adult for the first year of life. However, with parents so close at hand, babies tend not to sleep as well. Remember that babies make noises at night; you don’t have to jump up every time.

The Takeaway

Your baby should sleep:

#1. On his or her back

#2. In a new crib

#3. In your bedroom

#4. On a flat, firm mattresses

#5. Without anything else in the crib

#6. With his or her face uncovered

#7. Not too warm

#8. With a pacifier as needed


Blogger, CPSC. (2010, February 20). Safe Sleep, Part 1: The Crib. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2010/02/12/safe-sleep-part-1-the-crib/

Blogger, CPSC. (2018, August 31). Keep Me Safe! Here’s what to know for Baby Safety Month 2018. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2018/08/31/keep-me-safeheres-what-to-know-for-baby-safety-month-2018/

Mayo Clinic, S. (2020, May 20). Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/symptomscauses/syc-20352800

Staff, CPSC. (2019, November 07). CPSC Cautions Consumers Not to Use Inclined Infant Sleep Products. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/News-Releases/2020/CPSC-Cautions-Consumers-Not-to-Use-Inclined-Infant-Sleep-Products

Staff, CPSC. (2020, May 29). Safe Sleep – Cribs and Infant Products. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://www.cpsc.gov/SafeSleep

Staff, Mayo Clinic. (2017, July 22). Pacifier do’s and don’ts. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://www.cpsc.gov/content/cpsc-cautions-consumers-not-to-use-inclined-infant-sleep-products

Staff, NIH. (2015, October 06). NIH alerts caregivers to increase in SIDS risk during cold weather. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-alerts-caregivers-increase-sids-risk-during-cold-weather#:~:text=In%20cold%20weather%2C%20parents%20and,the%20National%20Institutes%20of%20Health

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