We’ve made great strides as a country toward keeping our kids safer. One of the biggest improvements is the decrease in infant mortality nationwide. The education to lay infants to sleep on their back has reduced SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) dramatically. But where are we now in terms of recommendations on infant sleep safety, and what do we need to do to continue to improve it? (An infant is any child younger than one year old.)
- Lay infants to sleep on their backs. If an infant turns to the side or stomach– usually around 4 months or older– that’s okay and completely safe. But only if they’ve done so on their own accord.
- Be sure infants are sleeping on a firm, flat surface. Sofas and adult mattress are often too soft. Additionally, they have pillows, blankets, and crevices that can potentially trap infants and cause suffocation, even when you feel like you have an eye on them. An infant mattress is a worthwhile investment.
- Avoid stuffed animals, pillows, loose blankets, or soft bumpers around an infant’s sleep area. Don’t get me wrong: it’s perfectly fine to swaddle your baby. In fact, the new zipper and velcro swaddles are great; it’s hard for an infant to wriggle out of them and there is a very low risk of suffocation. Aside from that, an infant’s crib should be free of stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, and bumpers– no matter no cute they are. Specifically, the AAP recently began recommending against crib bumpers, as they can trap an infant’s face against the mattress. Loose ties from bumpers have also been shown to be a choking hazard.
- No smoking in the house with an infant. It’s very difficult for any smoker to quit, but if you have an infant, please do it for them. Simply put, smoke particles are hazardous to an infant’s health during and after pregnancy. Even if you do not smoke around your child, the particles get absorbed in furniture, walls, and clothes and have shown to cause infant mortality.
It does seem that encouraging safe infant sleep practices at all times (even during nap times) will improve all babies’ safety. If you have any questions, I encourage you to have a conversation with your pediatrician.