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Ask An Expert / Children / Hot Topic

Ask the Experts: How Can I Ensure my Baby is Getting Safe Sleep?

Safe sleep for infants

Sleep is critical to a baby’s growth and development, but it can also come with some unexpected dangers. Learning about creating the proper sleep environment can help keep your little one safe. Below, Children’s Hospital Colorado pediatricians and neonatologists Stephanie Bourque, MD, Sunah Hwang, MD, PhD, and Aniekan Udoko, MD, share their answers to a few of the most common safe sleep questions they hear from parents and caregivers.

baby safe sleep

Courtesy of the Safe to Sleep® campaign;   

How do I reduce the risk of sudden unexpected infant death?

While it’s not possible to completely eliminate the possibility of sudden unexpected infant death, creating a safe sleep environment for your baby significantly lowers the risk. This includes placing your infant alone, on their back and in a crib or other firm, flat sleep surface that is separate from anyone else’s sleep area. While sleeping a baby’s head should be at the same level as the body, rather than raised up. In addition, the baby’s sleep area should be clear of unsafe items that might cause suffocation, such as blankets, crib bumpers, pillows and stuffed toys.

Room-sharing is recommended and helps caregivers respond to their baby’s needs and monitor them closely overnight. This is different than co-sleeping or bed-sharing, where infants share the same sleep surface or mattress with another person. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing is not recommended because young babies are not able to roll, lift their upper bodies or turn their heads enough to breathe safely if they are placed on their stomach/side to sleep or become trapped under bedding or pillows.

How do I make sure my baby doesn’t get cold while sleeping?

Swaddling your baby (arms out once they can roll over on their own) in a single blanket or putting them in a sleep sack is a great option to keep your baby comfortable without causing them to overheat. It’s recommended that you dress your baby in one additional layer than what you are comfortable wearing yourself. Weighted sleep sacks or blankets are not recommended as compression of the chest or lungs may prevent your baby from breathing deeply and may also overheat your baby.

What about using a pulse oximeter, heart rate monitor or other monitors to monitor my baby’s breathing? 

Several commercial products are now available to track your baby’s sleep including wearable monitors, socks or mats to put under their sleeping surface. It’s important to know that none of these devices are proven to reduce the risk of sudden unexpected infant death. It’s also important to understand the limitations of this technology as you decide whether to purchase one of these monitors.

My baby has reflux and spits up a lot. How can I keep them comfortable and make sure they are in a safe sleep position? 

It’s important to know that all babies get reflux. For most babies, reflux creates a lot of dirty clothes to wash but does not put them in danger. While parents often worry that a baby with reflux will choke while on their backs, their gag reflex is strong and causes them to spit up or vomit instead. When possible, keeping your baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding to promote digestion can help with reflux. Supervised time in a baby carrier or swing is a great way to get that time in. Even for babies with reflux, sleeping on the back is the safest.  

Always consult with your pediatrician for specific questions or concerns about your child’s health. If you need help getting a safe sleep surface for your baby, Cribs for Kids may be able to help.

Baby safe sleep

Courtesy of the Safe to Sleep® campaign;   

Additional resources

Children’s Hospital Colorado: Co-Sleeping, Bed-Sharing and Room-Sharing. What’s the Safest?

AAP Healthy Children: A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep

NICHD: Resources for Caregivers and Families

In partnership with Mile High Mamas

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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