This post is part of an editorial series, “Sweet Sleep,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and insight as your navigate your family’s sleep journey.
If you could do everything you could to keep your baby safe while sleeping, wouldn’t you do so?
Before I was a mom, I never really thought of keeping a baby safe while he or she was sleeping. While I was pregnant and in my nesting mode, I went all out with decorating my daughter’s nursery, complete with custom made bumpers, tons of blankets, and stuffed animals. Her crib could have been featured in a magazine; it was so perfectly decorated.
But then two things happened. First, my daughter was born three-and-a-half months early, and we endured a long stay in the newborn intensive care unit. At the same time, I was involved with a safe infant sleep campaign at my former job. It was those two things that opened my eyes to the fact that there are very specific guidelines to follow to keep your baby as safe as possible while he or she sleeps.
I’ll be the first to admit these guidelines may seem extreme, but 3,500 infants die each year in the United States due to sleep-related deaths — many of them related to unsafe sleeping situations, resulting in unintentional suffocation.
Five Ways to Keep Your Baby Safe
- Back to sleep. Your baby should always sleep flat on his or her backs until he or she develops the ability to roll over on his or her own. This also means no wedges, which claim to help with your baby’s reflux.
- Empty crib. There should be nothing in your baby’s crib except a fitted sheet. No bumpers, blankets, stuffed animals, NOTHING. Yes, I realize all these things make the crib and nursery cuter, but they also are a safety hazard. Want to know the good news? Eliminating the need for all these items will save you money!
- No swaddling. This one is tough, and there’s still conflicting information out there. The most important thing to know is that once your baby starts being able to really move his or her arms and roll around, you should stop swaddling him or her and begin using a sleep sack. If your little one is able to wiggle out of the swaddled blanket, the blanket could suffocate the baby by covering the mouth.
- Car seats are not for naps. Yes, babies often fall asleep in their car seat during car rides, and that’s fine. But, car seats shouldn’t be considered an ideal place for naps. If they do nap in their car seat, always keep them properly buckled. Otherwise, they can slip into a position while sleeping where they could suffocate.
- No co-sleeping. Being a new mom is exhausting. I realize that if you’re breastfeeding, it may seem easier just to keep them in bed with you at night. But let’s go back to that part about being exhausted: If they’re in bed with you, there’s too much of a risk that you could fall into a deep sleep and roll over on them. You may be thinking, this could never happen to me. But, statistics show that it does happen—and too often. Instead, keep the crib in your room with you during the first six months to a year. Breastfeed and then put him or her back to sleep in the crib.
I didn’t get the option to make these decisions or follow these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on my own. My daughter spent her first three months fighting for her life in the NICU. It would be almost eight months before she came home, and another year before she didn’t need oxygen to breathe. It was this eye-opening experience, and even though I didn’t get the chance, I would’ve done anything and everything to keep her safe while she slept.