Parents of new babies have been asking me more and more questions about what is the best and safest way to put their infants down to sleep. I don’t want to lie down on the job on this one, so let me provide some information on the subject.

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with an updated set of safe sleep guidelines that emphasize the ABCs of baby sleep safety to prevent a sudden, unexpected infant death. 

For example, “A” stands for “alone,” meaning your baby should sleep alone, not with other people, stuffed animals, pillows or blankets.

“B” stands for back-sleeping, not on the side or stomach, until your baby learns to roll over on their own. Why is the back better? Scientists are not absolutely sure, but think it improves a baby’s ability to breathe more freely or not to overheat. There is no reason to worry that your baby will choke while sleeping on his or her back; there is no evidence to support that this happens in otherwise healthy infants.

And “C” stands for crib, which is the best place for a baby to sleep – not in an adult bed, or on a sofa, cushion or other sleep surface. The bedding you use should include a firm mattress and bumpers should be removed from the crib in addition to all other objects, including blankets and pillows.  

These new safe sleep guidelines also call for room-sharing for baby and parent at least for the first six months of life and optimally for the first year of life, which has been found to decrease the rate of sudden unexpected infant death by as much as 50 percent. 

It is important to note that room-sharing does not mean bed-sharing in the same bed, but having your baby sleep in a crib in the same room. You can certainly bring baby into your bed to feed or comfort but when you are ready to go to sleep, then place your baby back into their crib and safe sleep space. 

Finally keep everyone’s bedroom smoke-free since exposure to passive smoke has been found to increase a baby’s risk of experiencing sudden unexpected infant death. On the other hand, breastfeeding and vaccinations have been shown to reduce that risk.

Hopefully safety tips like these will allow you and your baby to get back to sleep (get it – “back to sleep”) by making sure your baby is placed in a safe sleep environment.  

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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