New parents are often concerned about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when they bring home their baby. To reduce the risk of SIDS, parents are often advised to avoid placing bumpers, soft bedding and loose blankets in their children's sleep area and to place their babies on their backs when they sleep. A recent study has found that these precautions may be more effective at different stages. The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, found that sleep environment risks for 0- to 3-month-old infants are different compared to those for babies ages 4 months to 12 months.
Researchers found the biggest risk for younger infants is sleeping in the same environment as adults, such as co-sleeping in a bed. Older infants are more likely to be suffocated by objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals, in the sleep area. Typically, babies begin to roll around 4 months old. If objects are in the crib, there is a risk that the baby can roll into something and not being able to roll back. The authors of the study reported that pillows are always dangerous to have in the sleep environment regardless of the baby's age.
Here's what you need to know to keep your baby safe during sleeptime at any age:
- Always place baby on his or her her back to sleep.
- Make sure baby is sleeping on a firm crib mattress.
- The only thing that should be in baby's crib is a tight-fitting crib sheet.
- Never use soft bedding, such as crib bumpers or blankets, or place any toys or stuffed animals in baby cribs.
- Do not put baby to sleep wearing too many layers. As a rule of thumb, baby is comfortable in one more layer than you are, according to the AAP.
If you choose to co-sleep, Dr. William Sears says co-sleeping is as safe as the conditions you practice. For obvious reasons, parents under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medications that interfere with normal sleep patterns should never have their baby in their bed. Other safeguards to employ:
- Sleep in a king-size bed if possible, to give everybody enough room.
- Be sure there are no wide crevices between the mattress and the guardrail or headboard that your baby's head could sink into.
- Never allow infants to sleep in the same bed with siblings or caregivers because they may not have the same awareness of a baby's presence that parents do.
- Don't fall asleep with your baby on a surface that isn't firm, such as a couch or a beanbag chair; she could suffocate by getting wedged between the cushions.