Parents work on preparing the baby’s room months before he is born – everything from choosing a theme for the bedding and finding the softest blankets, to color coordinating bumper pads and hanging mobiles.
New recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will actually make this process simpler for parents and safer for babies. The guidelines are published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.
According to pediatrician Jillian Miller, the AAP expanded its guidelines to focus on creating a safe sleep environment, rather than just reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
“Absolutely nothing should be in the crib with the baby, not even bumpers, which is surprising to many parents because they are typically concerned with the baby getting trapped in the crib’s vertical slats,” said Dr. Miller, of the Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics Hudson office. “Anything in the bed actually creates a hazardous environment for a baby to suffer from suffocation, entrapment or asphyxia.”
When it gets cold outside parents are also tempted to use blankets or a comforter to keep the baby warm in bed, but that’s strongly discouraged.
“Tight, warm clothing with a swaddle blanket works very well for sleeping because the blanket can’t get loose and go over the baby’s head,” Dr. Miller said. “The tightness makes the baby feel warm and cozy too.”
In general, a baby needs one more layer for warmth than an adult does. But Dr. Miller warns to not let the baby get too hot, because that’s a risk for SIDS too.
She suggests running a fan to help keep the room a bit cooler and the air circulating, which is also a SIDS prevention tip.
Babies in a deep sleep are also at a greater risk for SIDS because they are less likely to wake up when something is wrong. To keep the baby in a shallower-level of sleep, Dr. Miller suggests using a pacifier and always practicing “back to sleep.”
“Although babies actually sleep better on their tummies and sides, they should never be placed in either of those positions to sleep,” she said. “I know it is very tempting when a baby is not sleeping well, and parents will do anything to get the child to sleep, but this should not be an option.”
Dr. Miller speaks from experience. Her 14-month-old daughter was colicky so she never napped or slept well. “I was sleep deprived too, so I can see how those options are persuasive, but parents have to remember to always protect the baby. SIDS is very scary.”
SIDS declined from 1992 to 2001: 120 deaths vs. 56 deaths per 100,000 live births. That dramatic decline is attributed to AAP recommending that babies always sleep on their backs.
While the AAP recommends that babies sleep in the same room as parents, the organization advices against allowing babies to sleep in the same bed. However, Dr. Miller says parents receive mixed messages about sharing a sleeping space. For instance, some breastfeeding advocacy groups encourage bed-sharing for convenience.
“Until the child is 12 months old, he should always be in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress in the same room as the parents,” Dr. Miller said. “If the mother is breastfeeding at night, she can place the baby’s crib next to her bed. That’s what I did, so I didn’t have to get up. But mom needs to be very careful that she doesn’t fall asleep. Always put the baby back in his crib when he’s done feeding.”
In the video below, Dr. Daryl Steiner, director of Child Protection Services at Akron Children’s Hospital, discusses safe sleeping and steps you can take to help ensure a sound night’s sleep for the newest member of your family.