Sleep is especially critical for infants, as well as their parents. It’s not only a time for rest; it’s also crucial for a baby’s mood, growth and learning. So it’s important to do it right.
Because babies sleep so much during the first few months (newborns can sleep up to 16 or 17 hours a day), it’s vital to follow the sleep ABCs to ensure parents and caregivers are providing the safest-possible environment for their infant. Babies should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib. This lowers a baby’s risk of sudden unexpected infant death from SIDS and can prevent other causes of sleep-related infant death, like suffocation.
- Although co-sleeping is a method many parents consider, the Minnesota Sudden Infant Death Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend babies co-sleep with any adult, for any reason. A sleeping adult cannot ensure that they have not accidentally pulled their bedding up and over the top of their baby or moved their pillow too close to their baby’s face, no matter how lightly they sleep.
- Consider having your baby sleep in same room with you for the first 6 months — not in the same bed. If you bring your baby into your bed to breastfeed or comfort him, always place him back in his own crib when you are finished and before you go to sleep. A sleeping adult holding a baby also cannot ensure that the baby isn’t getting overheated with body heat or doesn’t have a kinked neck position with obstructed breathing, no matter how safe it seems.
- Place your baby on her back to sleep every time. The back position has reduced SIDS deaths nationwide by more than 50 percent.
- As your baby grows, if she rolls over on her own during sleep that is OK — just ensure there is nothing in the baby’s sleep area other than a tight-fitting sheet on a firm mattress.
Crib (safe environment)
- Babies should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or chair — alone or with anyone else.
- Use a safety approved crib, bassinet or play yard, with a firm mattress, covered with a tight-fitting sheet.
- If visiting away from home, make sure your baby has a safe crib, bassinet or play yard for sleep time. Babies never should sleep on an adult bed, sofa, blankets, pillows or makeshift bed on the floor.
- Keep soft objects, such as toys, blankets, pillows and those cute bumper pads, out of your baby’s sleep area. These are all hazards to safe sleep.
- Rather than a loose blanket to keep babies warm, consider using a one-piece wearable blanket (also called a sleep sack) during sleep.
Remember to tell all caregivers (babysitters, family members and child care providers) to follow safe sleep ABCs for every sleep time when caring for your baby. It’s possible that grandparents, family members or child care providers may have raised children using different sleep methods.
Ask Dr. Gigi on WCCO-TV: Tips for helping your baby sleep
Parents know good sleep is essential for healthy growth and functioning. If you’re searching sleep solutions for your child, visit Children’s Sleep Center in St. Paul.
Gigi Chawla, MD, is the senior medical director of primary care at Children’s Minnesota.