How to create a safe sleeping space for your baby

Creating a safe sleep environment is an important step to keeping your baby safe. Safe sleeping techniques may seem like common knowledge to a seasoned parent, but the skills to properly put a baby to sleep can elude first-time parents who haven’t had the opportunity to be educated on safe sleep protocols.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics sleep guidelines, approximately 3,500 infants die each year in the United States from sleep-related deaths. Babies who are not properly put to sleep can suffer the consequences of various dangers, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, more commonly known as SIDS.

Parents who are knowledgeable about safety precautions can provide their children with a safe sleep environment and help eliminate risks. Taking simple, but essential steps can help parents rest assured that their infants are sleeping safe and sound.

Place babies to sleep on their back.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents place infants to sleep on their back until they reach age 1, even for naps. When parents and caregivers place babies on their back to be put to sleep, they decrease the risk of choking and aspiration.

Use a firm sleep surface clear of objects.

Using a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet, will help reduce risks of suffocation and SIDS. As rule of thumb, parents should know that firm surfaces do not conform to an infants head when resting. A surface that creates an indent increase sleep-related risks. The sleeping area should be completely empty, with no blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or toys. While loose bedding and soft objects are appealing to adults, they pose a risk to infants.

Share a room with your infant, not a bed.

Bed-sharing, especially during the first six months of life, poses a danger to young children. The Arizona Department of Child Safety recommends that parents share a room with their infant instead. Sharing a room allows parents and caregivers to be readily available to comfort, feed and monitor their baby. Sharing a bed with a baby can lead to unintentional injury or death. It’s important that parents avoid falling asleep with their baby on a sofa or armchair, as such furniture further increase the risk of danger.

Don’t overdress your baby.

Overdressing a baby for sleep can cause overheating. Avoid dressing your baby with too many layers of clothes and be aware of signs of overheating. If an infant is sweating or their chest feels hot to the touch, call your child’s health care professional right away.

Remember your ABCs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed the “ABC” acronym: Alone on their Back in the Crib.

When in doubt, call the Birth to Five Helpline.

Though new parents can feel overwhelmed by the many factors that contribute to sleep-related infant deaths and SIDS, a professional with the expertise to give parents confidence and peace of mind is only a phone call or touch of a button away. Call the Birth to Five Helpline at 877-705-KIDS (5437) or download the Birth to Five Helpline app. Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Download the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s safe sleep checklist to ensure you’re providing a safe sleeping space for your baby.

This article was previously published on July 10, 2017. It has been updated as of October 1, 2019.

All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care. Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article. You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance. Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.