The ABCs of Better Sleep for Babies

December 2015 By: Gary Freed, D.O., F.A.A.P., F.A.C.O.P. Professor of Pediatrics | Director, Apnea Center
baby sleeping in crib
0-12 Months

Good sleep habits are vital to the entire family’s well-being. Those habits start at birth, a time when children are most at risk for sleep-related deaths. Each year, thousands of babies die suddenly and unexpectedly, with about a third of those deaths associated with where or how a baby sleeps.

Parents can help get their children on the road to healthier sleep with a few simple steps, called the ABCs of Sleep Safety. Babies should always sleep:

Alone…

On their Backs…

In a Crib.

Let’s look at the ABCs in reverse order, starting with C—putting your baby to sleep in a crib. Creating a safe sleep environment is a key to decreasing the risk of sleep problems. Your baby should sleep in a crib (without drop sides) or bassinet, on a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Sleeping on a soft surface, like a pillow or blanket, might seem more comfortable for your baby, but it’s dangerous. Keep toys and other soft bedding (like fluffy blankets, comforters, pillows, stuffed animals, bumper pads and wedges) out of the crib, as they can impair your infant’s ability to breathe.

Now let’s talk about B—putting your baby to sleep on his back. It is important to place your baby down to sleep on his back for all sleep times (naps and at night). Placing your child on the side or stomach is not OK; it’s dangerous because it increases his risk of sudden death. If your baby uses a pacifier, it shouldn’t have cords or clips that might be a strangulation risk. If your child falls asleep and the pacifier falls out of the mouth, you don’t need to replace it.

Moving on to A—putting your baby to sleep alone. Many parents want their baby to sleep with them, and having your baby share your room is OK, as long as he’s in a separate crib or bassinet. Sharing a bed with your baby is not OK.

Additional safe sleep tip: Avoid letting your baby get too hot. Dress her lightly for sleep. Set the room temperature in a range that’s comfortable for a lightly clothed adult, as overheating has also been linked to sudden death.

Remember: It’s never too early to make changes that will decrease your child’s risk for health problems now and in the future.

This information is also important for all caregivers, not just parents. So please share it with grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, childcare providers and anyone else who might care for babies. 

These simple actions can make a big difference to your baby’s health now, during childhood and throughout the entire course of his life.

baby sleeping in crib
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