As a sleep coach, I promote a safe sleep environment with all the parents I talk to. But as a mom, I can see why not all parents are aware of and/or choose to follow these specific recommendations. Just as it took a few decades for everyone to get on board with always wearing a seat belt to address car safety, I believe sleep safety is on it's way.
But we are not quite there yet.
Wanting a Martha Stewart nursery
Store flyers and display windows are constantly selling beautiful cribs filled with cushiony bumpers, fluffy blankets and soft cuddly teddy bears for our kiddos. Before having my first, I admit I wanted to buy it all! But in the back of my mind, I'd remembered hearing that newborns shouldn't have these things in their crib. Surely these stores wouldn't be selling anything that was not recommended and could put my baby in danger?? Pottery Barn and Babies R Us are notorious for this. With no warning signs or recommendations for safe sleep practices, they send millions of new parents home with these items that only serve to increase the chances of suffocation and strangulation.
Can you guess from the photos below which one represents a safe sleep environment? Unfortunately, it's not what catalogue covers are made of, but it IS what we should be creating at home for our little bundles.
"We used to..."
I have much less anger directed towards this next group as I know their recommendations are coming only out of love, but our parents. Ahhh our parents.
99% of the time, I marvel at how amazing my mom is. How she knows what to do to get poop stains out, how to help decrease a fever, how to get marker out of the microsuede couch. But there are a couple of things that our parents generation did that are just not recommended this day and age. Hearing "We put you to sleep on your tummy and you were fine!" only adds to our overwhelming body of contradicting advice. Google says this but mom says that. And I'm not surprised that a lot of people trust mom more than Google.
But there has been extensive research in the last couple of decades showing that putting a child to sleep on his back is best and that the number of SIDS related deaths has decreased exponentially since the initiation of the "Back is Best" program. No one is saying that your child will stop breathing the minute you place them on their tummies to sleep, but if you could do something to lower those chances, I know most parents wouldn't do it in a heartbeat.
So without further ado, let's get to the nitty gritty.
AAP Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction - 2011
Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
Wedges and positioners should not be used.
Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
Breastfeeding is recommended.
Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).
I think it's important to point out that the AAP has been working on updating this list of recommendations and will be publishing it in 2017. I will keep you all updated with any changes are soon as they are known.
For more information about Safe Sleep Guidelines, go to