Nothing is scarier to parents than the idea that something can happen to their baby while he or she is asleep. Unfortunately, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or SIDS) happens every year to 1,500 infants. We do not yet know exactly what causes SIDS, but it’s usually blamed on something interfering with a baby’s breathing while he or she is asleep. There are also other injuries that can happen after you put your baby to sleep. In fact, 26 babies are injured every day by their crib—usually from climbing up the side and falling over the edge. While all this is scary, there are things that you can do to keep your little one safe and sound while sleeping. These are six steps that every parent should take.
- Have your baby sleep on his or her back. Tummy time is good when a baby is awake, but sleeping should always happen on the back. This is true even if it’s just a nap. Don’t worry if your baby flips over and starts sleeping on his or her stomach after a few months—as long as he or she is starting out in the right position, it's OK.
- Double check that the crib is safe. The slats of the crib should be fewer than 2 3/8 inches apart—anything wider than that and your baby can wedge his or her head into the space.
- Place your baby on a firm mattress. Soft surfaces like a fluffy blanket, quilt, pillow, or sofa can be dangerous and cause your child to suffocate.
- Cover the mattress with a tight-fitting sheet. Even though you see photographs of cribs in catalogs with lots of extra items like bumper pads, a top sheet, blankets, and toys, you’re not going to want anything except for a fitted sheet in there with your baby.
- Keep your baby warm with the right sleep clothing. When it’s cold, don’t wrap your baby in loose blankets. Instead, use a sleep sack that’s wearable and designed specifically for babies.
- Keep the bedroom cool. When a baby gets too hot, the risk for SIDS increases. Keep the room the perfect temperature by using a fan that’s made for use in a nursery (they have child-proof features to keep fingers safe).