In the beginning, babies spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping. They’re not doing much, but don’t be fooled. They can get themselves into lots of trouble just by hanging out in their crib. The Consumer Product Safety Commission cites 97 reports of crib-related deaths from 2002 to 2004 (the most recent statistics) due to entrapment between old or broken crib components, encounters with accessories around the crib, such as window cords or curtain tie backs, and suffocation when infants ended up face down in cribs containing pillows, quilts, and other bedding. It’s up to you to provide your baby with the safest and best sleeping environment possible. Here’s what you can do to rest assured that your baby is snoozing safely:
• To reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation, place your baby to sleep on its back (unless your pediatrician advises otherwise) at naptime and nighttime in a crib that meets all safety standards with a firm, tight-fitting mattress. You shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress at any point.
• Place your baby’s crib well away from windows, window blinds, wall hangings, draperies, and other furniture so that an adventurous baby can’t get at anything dangerous.
• Don’t put your baby to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, sheepskin, quilt, soft mattress, air mattress, pillow, or bean bag chair. The fluffy bedding materials and soft surfaces can allow a dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide from the baby’s own breathing. Rebreathing exhaled carbon dioxide has been identified as a potential cause of SIDS.
• Remove all soft, fluffy, or loose bedding and other items from your baby’s crib, including quilts, bumper pads, decorative (or any) pillows and stuffed animals. Replace loose crib blankets with a wearable sleep sack.
• Buy a new crib; a safe crib doesn’t have to be expensive.
• Don’t use a crib with loose, broken, or missing slats, spindles, or hardware, cut-out designs in the headboard or footboard, cracked or peeling paint, splinters or rough edges. And don’t try to repair the crib yourself, or jury-rig it with string or shoelaces. Regularly tighten hardware to keep sides firm.
• Don’t dress your baby too warmly. Overheating may be a contributor to SIDS. Keep the temperature in your baby’s room between 68 and 72 degrees F. Your baby shouldn’t feel hot to the touch.
• Consider using a pacifier at naptime and bedtime. Some studies have shown that use of a pacifier may reduce the risk of SIDS. If your baby is breast-fed, wait to introduce a pacifier until 1 month of age, after breast-feeding is firmly established. But if your baby doesn’t like a pacifier, don’t force them to take it. Begin weaning your baby off the pacifier after their first birthday.
• Don’t let your baby share your bed. In addition to the risk that you might roll onto your baby, adult beds pose other hazards. For example, your baby could get trapped between the bed and a wall, headboard, bed frame, or other object. Accidental suffocation in soft bedding is another danger, or your baby could fall off the bed. If you breast-feed your baby in bed, be sure to return her to the crib afterward.
• Don’t use an electric blanket, heating pad, or even a warm water bottle to heat your baby’s crib. An infant’s skin is highly heat-sensitive and can be burned by temperatures comfortable to an adult.
• Educate your parents and other caregivers who may be with your baby at naptime or nighttime about these safe sleeping tips.
See our reports on cribs, play yards, and toddler, twin, and bunk beds for more information.