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The Ultimate Guide to Safe Sleep for Your Baby

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

When it comes to your child, you can never be too careful. Newborn babies are completely dependent on their caregivers to keep them safe, nourished, and rested. And when you’re learning about how to do all of these things while simultaneously healing from giving birth, it’s a lot to think about while you’re living it!


We’d love to offer some insight on safe sleeping practices so you have all the knowledge you need to make safe sleep decisions for your child. Having a plan and your values around sleep in place beforehand will only help in the middle of the night when you just want to sleep. And if you ever find yourself struggling to stick to the recommendations or goals you’ve chosen for your family when it comes to sleep, we’re also moms and we get it. Hop online with either one of us to chat through your situation – we (Ashley and Katelyn) both offer ask-us-anything options.


In this post, we will cover the current safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, safe sleep terminology (and why it’s important for new parents to know these terms), SIDS prevention, transitioning from a bassinet to a crib, and when and how to introduce loveys, pillows, and blankets safely.


Know the Current Safe Sleep Recommendations

Know that these recommendations are in place to keep your child as safe as possible. You should try to follow as many as possible. In some circumstances, it is okay to consider alternative options that should always be discussed with your child’s physician (for example, if you’re planning to exclusively breastfeed but you’re not producing enough output to keep your baby nourished, you would want to supplement with formula, as it would be harmful to your child if you didn’t).


You can read more here, but here’s our quick outline of the current safe sleep recommendations:

  1. Place your baby on their back to sleep for every sleep.

  2. Use a firm sleep surface – use only a tightly-fitted sheet is needed on a crib mattress, or the mattress(es) that come with your child’s bassinet or play yard. Do not use or add any extra mattress or bedding to your child’s sleep surface.

  3. Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.

  4. Room-sharing is recommended – the child sleeps on a separate, firm surface (as stated above in #2) in the same room and near the parents’ bed for at least the first 6 months.

  5. The crib should be empty besides your baby (in a swaddle or sleep sack) – no additional blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, etc. are needed as they increase the risk of SIDS, suffocation, entrapment, and/or strangulation.

  6. Offer a pacifier as they have demonstrated a protective effect against SIDS, even if they fall out of the baby’s mouth after falling asleep initially.

  7. Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after giving birth.

  8. Avoid alcohol and drug use.

  9. Do not cover your child’s head and avoid overheating.

  10. If still pregnant, obtain regular, routine prenatal care.

  11. Infants should be immunized as advised by the AAP and CDC – there is recent evidence that vaccination may have a protective factor against SIDS.

  12. Avoid using devices marketed for sleep that go against safe sleep recommendations.

  13. The use of home cardiorespiratory monitors should not be utilized as an approach to reduce the risk of SIDS.

  14. Have your baby do supervised tummy time daily!

  15. Swaddles should be removed when your baby shows signs of rolling.

  16. Health care professionals and child care providers should follow and demonstrate safe sleep recommendations.

  17. Marketing terminology should reflect the safe sleep recommendations in messaging and advertising.

  18. Pediatricians and primary care providers should continue the “Safe to Sleep” campaign for educating parents and other caregivers.

  19. Continued research to reach the goal of eliminating these deaths is recommended.

We know!!! That was A LOT of information in a very short time, but it is so important to know when bringing a new baby home from the hospital.


Marketing and Safe Sleep Terminology


We want to go more into detail about the terminology used by manufacturers that can be misleading for new (and tired) parents.


Trust us. We’ve been there. And when some “sleeper” shows a picture of a baby laying in it, you’d assume that’s what it’s for – sleep! Right?!


Think again.


Here are some misleading terms that are NOT approved for safe sleep by the CPSC:

  • “sleeper”

  • “napper”

  • “Lounger”

Hmmm…


So, what can your baby sleep in safely?


Anything marketed as a:

  • “crib”

  • “bassinet” or “bassinet attachment”

  • “play yard”

Raise your hand if you knew this information before you made your baby registry!


Preventing SIDS


There are definitely some things to consider when setting up your child’s nursery and sleep space to help prevent SIDS.


You’ll want to make sure that the crib is bare – nothing besides your baby, placed on their back, in their swaddle or sleep sack is needed for sleep. Crib bumpers are not necessary.


The ideal room temperature for safe sleep is between 68-72 degrees F. You’ll also want to make sure there is optimal airflow. We don’t want your baby overheating, and we want fresh air circulating.


Other preventative measures:

  • Breastfeed if possible. Any amount of breastfeeding is more protective than none.

  • Offer a pacifier. The risk of SIDS significantly decreases after 4-months and again as time goes on until your baby reaches a year old.

  • Do not smoke.

When to Transition Out of the Bassinet or Bassinet Attachment


A bassinet is super convenient for when your baby is sleeping in your bedroom, but by a certain point in time, it’s no longer safe. Once your baby reaches the weight or height (length) limit, you’ll want to transition them to a crib.


It’s always better to be safe than sorry.


When and How to Introduce Loveys, Pillows, and Blankets


You probably were gifted so many blankies and stuffed animals at your baby shower that you can’t even count them! But there is no need to rush into using them.


For your child’s safety, you’ll want to wait until they’re at least 12 months old before you put a lovey item (a small blankie or stuffed animal) in their crib with them for sleep. You can certainly introduce a lovey into their daily routines and their nap- and bedtime routines prior to this, but it’s not safe until at least 12 months.


For bigger blankets and pillows, you’ll want to wait until at least 18 months of age, and really, it’s just not necessary in a crib. A good sleep sack can last quite a few years and keep your child warm and comfortable.


Keeping your baby safe is part of your job as a parent – now that you know best practices you can move forward knowing that you’re doing everything you can to keep your child safe. Bookmark this one for later. Send it to your mom friends. Print it off for grandma.


And, if you’re as passionate about safe sleep (and educating others about it) as we are, maybe our Sleep Consultant Academy is a good place for you! Learn more about our program here.

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