Baby is on his back with no blanket and looks so … vulnerable. Will he be warm enough tonight? New parent concerns are endless sometimes. Is the room cool enough? What if the baby spits up in his sleep? Should the baby be sleeping alone? When it comes to getting your little one to sleep comfortably and safely during the night, don't be a worry wart. Learn the current research and do the best you can. Here's help on safe sleep topics to guide you toward a good night's rest.
What kind of environment are you providing for your infant? For instance, what's the temperature of the room, how's the mattress, lighting and sound? All of these things contribute to the amount of time Baby will sleep.
Before you even place your baby to sleep in his crib or bassinet, be sure of the firmness of the mattress. “Babies should sleep on a firm mattress made for infant cribs," says Anna Morad, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and director of the newborn nursery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "They should never be placed to sleep on a pillow top, featherbed or futon type mattress,” she adds. This reduces the risk of suffocation.
Another note on the mattress is to keep it level. Many parents think it's a good idea to keep Baby at an incline to reduce choking should he spit up in the middle of the night. However, Morad cautions parents against this practice. “Mattresses should not be propped even if the baby is spitting up,” she adds. “Talk to your provider about other ways to help the spitting up.”
Remember, too, that when you place Baby to sleep in his crib or bassinet, remove all loose sheets and blankets, pillows, toys, etc. “Bumpers and blankets are not recommended so cribs should and will look bare,” says Morad. If you notice Baby is hot while sleeping (but not feverish), chances are the room is too warm. “We usually recommend 70 degrees Fahrenheit for healthy babies, but if you have a low birthweight or pre-term baby, then you should ask your healthcare provider if a higher temperature is appropriate,” says Morad.
If adjusting the thermostat conflicts with the temperature of the rest of the house, consider using a portable fan or turning on the ceiling fan — which is great for air circulation. “Ceiling fans are thought to be helpful in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) prevention, and the AAP encourages their use,” adds Morad. Not only that, but some parents find that Baby likes the white noise fans make.
However, if you learn Baby sleeps better with a little noise, you should be mindful of what you use. “Be careful with sound machines, per a study published in Pediatrics in 2014,” cautions Morad. “There is concern about infant hearing damage from some of the machines on the market. If you choose to use a sound machine, place it on the lowest volume and as far from the crib as possible,” she adds.
SLEEP IN HIS OWN SPACE
Now that you have his room perfect, why are you plopping him down next to you? Think twice about that. “Infants should sleep in their own space but in the room with their parents for the first six months,” says Morad. This supports what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says: "There is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. In addition, this arrangement is most likely to prevent suffocation, strangulation and entrapment that may occur when the infant is sleeping in the adult bed." If you find yourself falling asleep on the couch or in the chair while holding your baby, be sure you're in a safe position to do so.
If you've tried rocking Baby to sleep to no avail and the only thing that works is a ride in the car or in a swing … go for it! However, it's not a good idea to leave him in his seat or swing once asleep.
According to the AAP, "Sitting devices, such as car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers and infant slings, are not recommended for routine sleep in the hospital or at home, particularly for young infants."
So, as tempting as it may be to not move Baby once he's asleep in one of these devices, take the initiative to move him anyway for his own safety. The AAP adds, "Infants who are younger than 4 months are particularly at risk, because they may assume positions that can create a risk of suffocation or airway obstruction or may not be able to move out of a potentially asphyxiating situation."
And, you know those trending pacifiers with a toy attached? He can do without that, too. Think of it as a stuffed toy and not just a pacifier. Morad urges parents to not use that type of pacifier while Baby's sleeping, but says, “Regular pacifiers are encouraged after breastfeeding is going well.”
There's a little safety measure you can put in place for yourself, too, when it comes to Baby's room — night lights. “While night lights are generally not needed for infants, they can be useful for parents in the middle of the night to provide care for their baby without tipping over furniture,” suggests Morad. Following these safety tips will ensure sound sleep and in the comfort of knowing he's safe.