All new parents worry about sleep: hoping and wondering and crossing their fingers and toes that their new bundle of joy will turn out to be a coveted “good” sleeper. And getting enough ZZZs in infancy is, indeed, important. But what’s most important is that your baby is sleeping safely. It’s heartbreaking to think about, but the truth is, every year about 3,400 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping in the United States...and many of those deaths are preventable. So, for parents to truly rest easy, it’s essential to know your safe sleep basics.

Baby Safe Sleep Must #1: Place Your Baby on Their Back

Until your precious bub reaches their first birthday, they should always be placed on their back for all naps and nights. Babies who sleep this way are far less likely to die of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) than babies who snooze on their tummies or sides. In fact, since the start of the national safe sleep campaign (aka: Back to Sleep), the overall SUID rate in the U.S. dropped by more than 50%. For help ensuring babies remain safely on their backs during sleep, our SNOO Smart Sleeper features a secure swaddling system, which prevents little ones from rolling to unsafe positions during sleep. It’s so safe, in fact, that the Food and Drug Administration has accepted SNOO into its Breakthrough Device Program, which helps to get life-saving devices to consumers quickly.

Baby Safe Sleep Must #2: Use a Firm and Flat Sleep Surface

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your baby’s sleep space—whether a crib, bassinet, or play yard—must include a tight-fitting and firm mattress that doesn’t indent when you place your baby down. When babies sleep on a soft sleep surface, like an adult bed, couch, or armchair, their risk of sleep-related death goes way up. The same holds true for babies who snooze on an ill-fitting mattress, which can open the possibility of accidentally becoming wedged between the mattress and the crib. Another safe-sleep necessity: a completely flat sleep surface, which means not at an incline. Even though the AAP clearly states this is imperative to safe sleep, currently there are numerous inclined sleepers available, which continue to put sleeping babies at risk for affixation and falling if not secured properly.

Baby Safe Sleep Must #3: Keep Everything Out of the Bassinet

Stuffed animals, wedges, positioners, pillows, top sheets, blankets—none of these items belong in your baby’s bassinet or crib. For young babies, a safe sleep space is an empty sleep space, since soft objects can increase your tot’s risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation. And, yes, that includes crib bumpers, too.

Bumpers are not only unnecessary, but they’re also dangerous since babies can roll over and press their little faces against the bumper, which can lead to suffocation. That’s why the AAP advises against any type of crib bumper, including mesh bumpers. And why, in April 2021, the bipartisan Safe Cribs Act was introduced into Congress in the hopes that soon crib bumper sales will be banned. In the end, it’s recommended that you wait until your baby is 12 months old before introducing a lovey, like handkerchief-sized silky blanket or hand-sized cuddly stuffed animal, a pillow, and more to a kiddo’s sleep space.

Baby Safe Sleep Must #4: Share a Room, Not a Bed

The APP recommends keeping your sweet baby close by sharing a room with them for at least the first six months of their life, noting that this simple act can decrease a baby’s chances of SUID by as much as 50%. But don’t confuse room sharing with bed sharing, a practice that’s associated with 70% of infant sleep deaths. It’s best to only bring your baby into your bed to offer a feed or some comfort—not for sleep. Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies because of the risk of entrapment, suffocation, and SUID...but it’s especially dangerous for babies younger than 4 months old and those who arrived prematurely or at a low birth weight. 

Baby Safe Sleep Must #5: The Right Temperature

While parents often worry that their snoozing baby is too chilly, know that overheating increases a baby’s risk of SUID, according to the AAP. To keep your baby at a safe temperature while sleeping, adjust the thermostat in their room to fall between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. (That’s 20 to 22.2 degrees Celsius.) Dress your nugget in no more than one additional layer of clothes than you’d be comfortable in. And whatever you do, keep loose blankets, and quilts out of their sleep space! (A large percentage of infants who die of SUID are found with their head covered by bedding.) Instead, nestle your baby in a wearable blanket or safe swaddle, like our award-winning Sleepea, which is made from breathable organic cotton and mesh to further reduce risky overheating.

Final Thoughts: Safe Sleep for Babies

Safe sleep goes beyond your baby’s personal sleep space—and the temperature of their room. Here are a few more habits to keep in mind to continue keeping your little one sleeping safely.

  • Relocate your baby. If your little one falls asleep on a nursing pillow, a plush lounging pad, in the car seat, stroller, swing, baby carrier, or in your bed, move them to a firm, safe sleep surface—on their back—as soon as you can

  • Clear your sleep space. Parents are human...and tired! So, if there’s any chance that you might doze off while feeding your lovebug in bed, remove all pillows, sheets, blankets, or any soft items that might accidentally cover your baby’s face, head, and neck—or cause your nugget to overheat. And as soon as you wake, move your baby to their own safe sleep space.

  • Consider a pacifier. Offering a paci at nap and bedtime helps reduce the risk of SUID... even if it falls out after your baby sails off to dreamland, notes the AAP. If you’re nursing, it’s best to wait until breastfeeding is well established before offering a pacifier. And if your bub doesn’t love the binkie, feel free to keep trying, but don’t force it! Some babies simply don’t like them.

  • Breastfed if you can. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of SUID. And while the protective effect increases with exclusivity, any amount of nursing has been shown to be more protective than zero breastfeeding.

  • Kick the butts. Keep your tot away from smokers and places where people will be smoking. Research shows exposure to smoke is a major risk factor for SUID, as is smoking while pregnant.

For even more on getting babies and toddlers to sleep and stay asleep….and to love sleep, check out our extensive baby and toddler sleep guides.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.