As a parent, your first priority is the safety of your baby. To put your mind at ease and help you get the rest you need, we have expert advice and tips on making sure your baby is sleeping in the safest environment possible. Tom Keens, M.D., a pediatrician and the chair of the California SIDS Advisory Council, weighs in on how to decrease Baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Dilemma: Do I put Baby on her back, side, or stomach?
Solution: Although there has been conflicting advice on this topic, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that for the safest sleep practices Baby should sleep on her back until she is old enough to turn over on her own. "Studies done showed that babies sleeping on their back have a decreased risk of SIDS," Dr. Keens says,
Dilemma: How do I make sure the room is the right temperature for Baby?
Solution: The problem with temperature is that an overheated baby is at greater risk for SIDS, Dr. Keens says. The AAP recommends that your child's room should be kept at a temperature that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. A simple onesie in the summer and footed one-piece pajamas or a sleep sack in the winter are safe options.
Dilemma: Baby loves his blanket and we take it everywhere. Should I put it in his crib?
Solution: Blankets can cause suffocation or strangulation. If it's cold when you put him to sleep, dress him in a sleep sack or a footed onesie rather than a blanket. The AAP recommends keeping any loose bedding, including pillows and bumpers, out of the crib while Baby sleeps. Use blankets when Baby is awake and you can safely monitor him.
Dilemma: Baby loves to play with his stuffed animals and other toys. Can he take them to bed?
Solution: Toys pose risks for strangulation and suffocation, and infants don't require toys for comfort to fall asleep. "Stuffed animals should really be out of the crib. Your baby can play with stuffed animals when he's awake, but not when he's asleep," Dr. Keens says. According to the AAP's website, healthychildren.org, hanging toys, such as mobiles or crib gyms, "should be out of Baby's reach and must be removed when the baby is old enough to push up on her hands and knees or is 5 months old, whichever occurs first."
Dilemma: How can I make sure my sleeping baby is safe from our family pet?
Solution: Keep your cat or dog out of your little one's room while she is sleeping. Pets can jump into cribs and increase the risk of suffocation or other injury. The AAP recommends pets be kept out of Baby's sleeping area for another reason, as well: Floating fur or dander could affect your little one's breathing. If you have a pet, use a baby monitor and keep the door closed at all times while she is sleeping or secure the pet in a kennel or in another controlled area, such as the basement or garage, during sleep times.
Dilemma: I've heard that I can sleep with Baby in my bed so I can be close enough to hear him at any time during the night. Is this true?
Solution: Dr. Keens says to have Baby in bed with you increases the risk of SIDS. "It really isn't a safe sleeping environment. The concern is if sleep-deprived parents roll onto the baby, they won't be able to respond appropriately." According to Dr. Keens, having your baby's crib in your room, often referred to as cosleeping, is the safest situation with the most decreased risk of SIDS. You are able to easily and quickly respond to any situation without being a risk to Baby's health yourself.
Dilemma: How do I know that my crib is safe for Baby?
Solution: According to the AAP, a safe crib has slats that are no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Also make sure your crib is free of splinters and cracked paint and has all the necessary hardware that fits securely. Use a firm crib mattress that fits snugly in the crib, with no space between the mattress and the slats. If you have an adjustable crib, the drop side can be lowered for easier access until your little one is able to pull himself up. When he starts crawling and pulling himself up, raise the drop side so he can't climb up and out. It is also important to be aware of window blinds and treatments that have cords, which also pose a strangulation hazard.
Dilemma: How do I know Baby will be safe at day care?
Solution: Day cares can be major sources of anxiety for parents. Dr. Keens says about 20 percent of SIDS deaths occur in day cares. To ensure Baby's safety at day care or in the care of another adult, communication and awareness are the best solutions.
Ask your day-care or child care provider the five Ws about sleeping:
1. When and how often will my baby sleep?
2. Where will my child sleep?
3. Who will be putting my baby to sleep?
4. What is the emergency procedure if something happens to my baby?
5. Why should I send my child here?
Always hold your day-care provider to the same standards of care that you have in your home. Inform them of your expectations and don't feel intimidated to express your concerns, check for safety hazards, or ask questions. Never leave your child with someone you don't trust.
You are the parent and you know your baby better than anyone else. That makes you the best safety net, especially when putting her to sleep. Watch what you're doing, what's in her crib, and what her behavior is like. Then trust yourself, turn on the baby monitor, and take a nap.
Copyright 2010 Meredith Corporation.