Baby sleep safety precautions
- Put your baby to sleep on his back, even if he was born premature.
- Use a crib or bassinet in your bedroom or a co-sleeper that attaches to the side of your bed until your baby is 6 months old. He's safer there than in his own bedroom, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
- Avoid having your baby sleep in your bed. Research from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine found that babies under 8 months old who slept in adult beds rather than cribs were 40 times more likely to suffocate or become entrapped between the wall and the mattress.
- Steer clear of loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys in the crib.
- Don't overbundle your baby, overheat the room where he sleeps (the AAP recommends keeping the temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit), or smoke in the house. All of these have been shown to increase the risk of SIDS.
- Never let your baby sleep on a sofa.
- Be vigilant about how your child's caregiver puts your baby to sleep. More than 20 percent of babies in daycare centers are still put to sleep on their tummies.
Avoiding a "flat head"
Flat spots on the head (also called plagiocephaly) can develop when your baby continually rests in the same position. To keep this from happening:
* Vary your baby's sleep position. Most babies prefer to face the action in the room, so periodically change the direction in which you lay your child down in the crib (so that her head is where her feet usually are). That way, she'll rest on different sides of her head.
* Provide plenty of tummy time. Let your child lie on her stomach when she's awake, and encourage her to look up. She may not like it at first, but a few minutes of tummy time each day is fine for a start. It strengthens her upper-body muscles so she can move her head around when she's lying down.
* Limit time spent in infant seats. Keeping your child in a position where her head rests the same way against any surface can cause a flat head. So don't leave her for extended periods in infant seats, swings, carriers, or strollers. Vary her position throughout the day, and give her plenty of upright "cuddle time."
If your pediatrician discovers any flattening of the head, she may recommend adjustments or exercises to strengthen your child's neck muscles. With these changes, most flattening improves within two to three months. If it doesn't, a specialist can determine whether further treatment, such as a "skull-molding" helmet, is necessary.
To help your child get his rest during the day, use the same strategies you use at night: Provide a pre-nap cue like reading a book or offering a favorite stuffed animal, always put him where he usually sleeps to nap, and try as much as possible to stick to regular naptimes.