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Sleep is crucial for physical health and emotional well-being—and the same is true for your baby. When caring for an infant, setting up a safe sleep environment is critical. Where your baby sleeps, the baby’s crib or bed, type of mattress, and sleeping position all matter. Following these best practices lowers your baby’s risk of injury or accidental suffocation.
Know your ABCs for safe sleep
Parents can take steps to ensure their baby has a safe sleeping environment by following the ABCs of safe sleep—alone on their back in their crib. Michelle Beebe, MPH, BSN, CCE, manager of Perinatal Outreach for Kettering Health, shares some additional guidelines for safe sleep best practices.
- Always put baby to sleep on their back during their first year, including for naptime. Even if your child can roll over to their stomach, they should start on their back.
- Put baby to sleep in their crib or bassinet. This is the safest sleep environment for them. The crib or bassinet should have a flat, firm surface with one tightly fitted sheet and nothing else.
- Keep the room where your infant is sleeping at a comfortable temperature. If you’re worried the baby might be cold, they can wear a sleep sack.
- Don’t put loose-fitting sheets, blankets, bumpers, pillows, toys, positioning wedges or devices, pacifiers with toys, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, etc. in the crib or bassinet.
- Do not let the baby sleep with others. The safest place for a baby to sleep is in the same room as their caregiver but in their own crib or bassinet. “If you’re worried you might fall asleep while feeding your baby,” Beebe says, “Make sure the baby is in a safe environment without pillows, blankets, or toys, with a firm surface and tight, fitted sheet. If you have the baby in your arms or on your chest and start getting sleepy, move baby to a safe place.”
- Don’t let an infant sleep on soft surfaces like sofas and soft mattresses. The crib or bassinet mattress should be firm. Soft sleep surfaces are still a risk for babies after the age of four months.
Kettering Health is committed to making sure every baby sleeps safely by training nurses to model safe sleep before babies leave the hospital and educating parents about the importance of safe sleep. Kettering Health is also teaming up with the Everyone Reach One Infant Mortality Task Force to reduce the number of babies who die before their first birthday.
The importance of tummy time
While babies should always be put to sleep on their backs, spending time in other positions is important for their growth and development. Most simply defined, tummy time refers to whenever the baby is off their back. “Tummy time doesn’t have to be hard,” says Beebe. “Play with the baby on their tummy for short periods, such as 3-5 minutes, three times a day.”
Regular supervised tummy time helps to prevent flat spots on the back of the head. It also helps the baby to strengthen their head and neck muscles and improves balance and mobility. “There are lots of ways to do tummy time,” Beebe shares. “You can put the baby on your chest and let them do a little push-up or burp them across your lap. Tummy time helps them build coordination so they can roll over, crawl, reach, and play.”
Where can I learn more about safe sleep?
Kettering Health holds multiple childbirth education classes to help parents prepare to care for their baby. Whether a first-time parent or not, Beebe notes that these classes are a valuable resource. “All of us have access to Google,” Beebe says, “But when you go participate in a class, you have an expert right there. You can engage in conversations and get your questions answered.”
In particular, the Baby Care class discusses developmental milestones and the Safety and CPR class provides a significant amount of safety information that new parents may not be aware of. Both classes are three-hour, standalone courses.