safe sleep baby lying on back in empty crib

Intro to Safe Sleep + Preventing SIDS

Jul 5, 2020

safe sleep baby lying on back in empty crib

Intro to Safe Sleep + Preventing SIDS

Jul 5, 2020

Welcome to Safe Sleep 101

This post is a beginner-friendly introduction to safe sleep. Links to evidence and more in-depth discussions are provided underneath each section.

Why this matters

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the #1 cause of death in healthy, full-term babies.

The good news is that the vast majority of SIDS cases are preventable. This post covers how to do just that.

thousands of babies die sleeping unsafely

Table of Contents

Guiding principles
Two things to understand up front.

Safe sleep basics
The ABC’s of safe sleep and common risky behaviors.

Swaddling
When to stop swaddling and why.

Nursery decor
The safety risks of wall hangings, mobiles, bumpers, and window treatments.

Baby wearing
Is it safe if your baby falls asleep while you’re wearing him in a carrier?

Travel systems
Should your baby sleep in his car seat or stroller?

Dressing for sleep
How to prevent overheating while still keeping your baby warm.

Pacifiers
Offer a pacifier to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Breastfeeding
Breastfeed to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Roomsharing
Share a room (not a bed) to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Products that are unsafe for sleep
A list of popular products that shouldn’t be used for sleep.

Products that are safe for sleep
What qualifies a product as safe and recommendations for safe sleep spaces.

Guiding principles

Let’s quickly cover two principles to wrap your head around:

1 – Your perception of the risk of SIDS is inherently biased.

Do not dismiss the risk of SIDS just because you don’t personally know people have lost babies.

2 – Many of the strategies to make babies sleep “better” are dangerous for that very reason.

Parents and caregivers commonly complain that their babies sleep like crap. (We’ve all been there!)

It’s important to realize that this is a life-saving mechanism. An infant’s ability to wake easily is what protects them against SIDS.

Now let’s dive in…

Safe Sleep Basics

handdrawn starFollow the ABC’s of safe sleep:

Infants should sleep…

A – alone
B – on their back
C – in a regulated crib, bassinet or play yard, with nothing but a fitted sheet and a pacifier

handdrawn starRemember that “sleep” doesn’t just mean at night… it refers to supervised naps too.

handdrawn starIf a baby falls asleep in his swing, seat, lounger, etc., it is not enough to just watch him — you must move him to a safe sleep space.

Why can’t you just supervise — why do you have to move him? Because asphyxia can look just like sleeping. There isn’t necessarily a fight for life or choking sound to alert you that something is wrong.

handdrawn starSafe sleep spaces are federally regulated. There are only 3 types of products that have undergone mandatory safety testing for infant sleep:

  • CRIB
  • BASSINET
  • PLAY YARD (often called Pack N Play)

Surprisingly common and surprisingly risky…

handdrawn starNever share a bed with an infant. Bedsharing increases the risk of SIDS.

handdrawn starNever place a sleeping baby on a couch, chair, or adult bed due to the high risk of entrapment and suffocation.

handdrawn starNever add additional mattresses, blankets, or anything to make a baby’s sleep space more “comfortable.”

handdrawn starNever leave a baby alone with pets. Make sure animals are in a different room if you are unable to supervise.

SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

the abcs of safe sleep alone back crib prevent sids

safe sleep is hard but your baby is worth it quote

delete from baby registry loungers like dockatot unsafe for sleep

 

REQUEST A GRAPHIC! If you’d like to see any piece of safe sleep info in an easily shareable graphic, shoot me a quick email!

Swaddling

handdrawn starIt’s no longer safe to swaddle when your baby starts showing signs of rolling. The risk of death is high if a swaddled infant rolls onto his stomach.

handdrawn starMany safe sleep experts instruct caregivers to stop swaddling at 8 weeks or first signs of rolling, whichever comes first.

handdrawn starMake sure the swaddle is tight enough so that it doesn’t ride up near the baby’s face. (Swaddling should not restrict the lower body for healthy hip development).

handdrawn starYou can switch to a sleep sack (a wearable blanket) when it is no longer safe to swaddle.

SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

it's no longer safe to swaddle when baby shows signs of rolling adensmom.com

Nursery Decor

handdrawn starHard items like frames, mirrors, and name signs should not be hung over a crib.

handdrawn starMobiles attached to the crib are safe until 5 months or when baby begins to push up, whichever happens first.

handdrawn starBumpers and rail covers are unsafe.

handdrawn starWindow treatments and window cords should not be within 3 feet of a crib.

This is NOT an exhaustive list of nursery safety.

READ MORE

My lay-person friendly post:

Evidence:

SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

wall hangings above crib delete from baby registry infant safety

delete from baby registry bumpers rail covers what to register for instead

Baby Wearing

handdrawn starIt’s fine if your baby falls asleep while you’re baby wearing, but it’s best to transfer him to a safe sleep space when one is available.

handdrawn starFollow the “TICKS” guidelines: Tight, In view at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep chin off the chest, Supported back.

SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

Travel Systems

handdrawn starIt’s fine if your baby falls asleep in his car seat or stroller while you’re out and about, as long as he is properly buckled. Transfer him to a safe sleep space when one is available.

handdrawn starCar seats and strollers should not be used for routine sleep. They should only be used to transport your baby from one location to another.

handdrawn starNever leave the straps unbuckled or partially buckled due to strangulation risk.

    READ MORE

    A few car seat safety tips:

    • If on a long drive, make sure to remove baby from the carseat at least every 2 hours.
    • Don’t put anything in the carseat that didn’t come with it (strap covers, head support pillow, etc.) as these have not been crash tested with the carseat.
    • There should be no blankets or bulky clothing under the car seat straps or on the baby’s body.

    My lay-person friendly post:

    Evidence:

    SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

    REQUEST A GRAPHIC! I don’t currently have any graphics for car seats but if you have any ideas, shoot me a quick email!

    Dressing for Sleep

    handdrawn starDress your baby based on the temperature of the room, not the temperature outside.

    handdrawn starBaby should be wearing no greater than 1 layer more than you. (Use the graphic below as a guide).

    handdrawn starHats and mittens are unsafe for sleep.

    SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

    You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

     

    Pacifiers

    handdrawn starOffering a pacifier at the start of every sleep period reduces the risk of SIDS by up to 90%.

    handdrawn starThe protective effect persists even if the baby drops the pacifier (so there is no need to replace it).

    handdrawn starPacifiers are safe to leave in the sleep space, but pacifier CLIPS are not.

    READ MORE

    Notes:

    • Scientists are not sure exactly how pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS. While we have hard data on the effectiveness of pacifiers as a protective factor, the hypothesized mechanisms remain unconfirmed.
    • There is no replacement for following the ABC’s of safe sleep. The ABC’s are the foundation of preventing SIDS.
    • Protective factors do not stack.

    My lay-person friendly post:

    Evidence:

    SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

    You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

    pacifier reduce risk SIDS AAP safe sleep

    Breastfeeding

    handdrawn starBreastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.

    handdrawn starMoms should be careful not to fall asleep while breastfeeding.

    READ MORE

    Notes:

    • Studies show that breastfed infants are more easily aroused from sleep than their formula-fed counterparts.
    • Studies do not distinguish between direct breastfeeding and providing expressed milk.
    • There is no replacement for following the ABC’s of safe sleep. The ABC’s are the foundation of preventing SIDS.
    • Protective factors do not stack.

    Evidence: 

    SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

    You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

    breastfeeding reduce risk SIDS AAP safe sleep

    Roomsharing

    handdrawn starRoomsharing decreases the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.

    handdrawn starThe AAP recommends that infants sleep in the same room as a parent ideally for the first year after birth, but at least for the first 6 months.

    Note: Room-sharing and bed-sharing are not the same thing.

    READ MORE

    Notes:

    • There is no replacement for following the ABC’s of safe sleep. The ABC’s are the foundation of preventing SIDS.
    • Protective factors do not stack.

    Evidence:

    SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

    You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

    roomsharing reduce risk SIDS AAP safe sleep

    Products that are unsafe for sleep

    MOST products are unsafe for sleep, even if they are marketed for sleep.

    Keep in mind that there is no proactive agency that checks all of these products before they go on the market. Do NOT assume that something is safe just because it’s carried by a major retailer.

    Related posts that explain more:

    There is a long list of examples below.

    LIST OF PRODUCTS UNSAFE FOR SLEEP

    Very important: This list is NOT exhaustive. A few popular products are included as examples.

    Not safe for sleep…

    x Crib accessories:

    • BUMPERS
    • RAIL COVERS
    • PILLOWS
    • “FLAT HEAD” PILLOWS
    • HAMMOCKS
    • POSITIONERS
    • INCLINED WEDGES
    • TENTS
    • MATTRESS TOPPERS

    x Bassinet accessories:

    • HALO NEWBORN INSERT
    • SNOO POSITIONER

    x Inclined seats and bouncy chairs

    • ROCK ‘N PLAY (recalled)
    • BABY BJORN BOUNCER

    x Anything marketed as a “SLEEPER” or a “NAPPER”

    • SWADDLEME BY YOUR BED SLEEPER (recalled)
    • SWADDLEME BY YOUR SIDE SLEEPER
    • PLAY YARD ATTACHMENTS
    • BABY DELIGHT SNUGGLE NEST PORTABLE INFANT SLEEPER

    x Nests and loungers

    • DOCKATOT
    • SNUGGLE ME ORGANIC (read this)
    • BOPPY

    x Swings

    x Play mats + activity gyms

    x Weighted sleep products

    • ZEN SWADDLE NESTED BEAN

    x Pacifier accessories

    • WUBBANUB
    • PACIFIER CLIPS

    x All this stuff

    • MEMORY FOAM MATTRESSES
    • SUPPLEMENTAL PLAY YARD MATTRESSES
    • BABOCUSH

    ***One more time, just in case: this list is not exhaustive.***

    SHAREABLE GRAPHICS

    You may share these graphics anywhere you want on social media as long as you do not alter them.

    Safe Products for Sleep

    Only safe if used as intended by the manufacturer and if you’re following all of the other safety guidelines we’ve discussed here.

    First, a quick recap of the very beginning of this post:

    safe sleep babies infants crib bassinet play yard

     

    CRIBS & BASSINETS

    handdrawn starThe product should be called a “crib” or “bassinet” in the user manual.
    handdrawn starUse a crib or bassinet manufactured after June 2011. There is a good chance that an older crib no longer meets all the current safety standards, especially if it has a drop side. DO NOT USE a vintage or heirloom crib.

    handdrawn starHomemade or “DIY” cribs are unsafe as they have not been safety tested.

    handdrawn starPurchasing a used crib is a risk, particularly if it’s not from someone you know and trust. You do not know whether the crib was previously broken and has been repaired or altered. (There have been many infant deaths associated with cribs that are broken and missing parts — including those that have been fixed.)

    handdrawn starDo not use a memory foam crib mattress. Your baby’s mattress should be firm.

    handdrawn starMake sure the mattress fits snugly against the inside of the crib.

    handdrawn starSome crib mattresses have infant and toddler sides. Make sure the infant side is facing up for the first 12 months.

     

    PLAYARDS

    handdrawn starThe product should be called a “playard” in the user manual.

    handdrawn starUse a play yard manufactured after February 2013 (when new federal safety standards were implemented).

    Read more about Pack ‘n Play safety here.

     

    PRODUCTS THAT ARE SAFE FOR SLEEP

    There are so many wonderful products that are safe for sleep. Now that you’ve read this post, you have the tools to determine for yourself whether a product is safe for infant sleep.

    UPDATE TO THIS SECTION COMING SOON

    Wrapping up your introduction to safe sleep…

    Congratulations, if you read this entire post, you are now a graduate of Safe Sleep 101!

    Help me normalize safe sleep!

    My goal: Make safe sleep instagrammable and pin-worthy.

    By making science and safety pretty, I’m hoping to attract the attention of parents and caretakers who might have otherwise remained in the dark.

    If you’d be willing to share this post on your own social media or pin any of my graphics on Pinterest, that would be so awesome.

    If you have your own beautiful photos of safe sleep that I can share in addition to my own, I would love to include more pictures of other safe sleepers! Click here to send me some pics!

    Correct me if I'm wrong!

    Citing the most up-to-date scientific evidence correctly is important to me.

    I have no ego in this. If you think I got something wrong and want to tell me, I'm happy to be corrected with evidence from a reputable source. Contact me here.