Safe Sleep For Babies – Do’s And Don’ts

Last updated: March 27, 2019

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

Safe sleep for babies means putting the baby to sleep in a safe position and in a safe environment, away from things which could pose danger, like rolling over and falling down, or soft mattress, toys or other objects that might cause suffocation in sleep.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or crib death usually happens to babies younger than 12 months, in their sleep. It is seemingly unexplained, but often linked to certain unrecommended behaviors, like leaving toys and blankets in the crib.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year in the US, about 3,500 babies die in sleep, almost 40% of which happened due to using soft bedding and about 20% due to letting the baby sleep on tummy – both of which is advised against by pediatricians.

How much sleep is safe for babies?

Babies under one year of age sleep up to 16 hours altogether. This includes naps and night sleep. It is normal for them to wake up every couple of hours for feeding. When they are older than 12 months, their sleep time will drop to about 12-13 hours per day and they will have fewer naps.

Every child is unique and with unique needs, but if your baby sleeps a lot more or significantly less than the numbers given here, you might want to consult a pediatrician.

Safe baby sleep – do’s and don’ts

Crib and mattress

Do’s

  • Use a firm mattress with tightly fitted bedding. Make sure there is no space between the matress and the crib frame and no uneven curves. The mattress should be made for the crib you’re using. Even with bedding, the sleeping surface should remain firm.
  • Remove all toys, loose beddings, blankets and pillows from the crib. Even remove a chain from the pacifier, if there is one.
  • Let the baby sleep in a crib separated from you. The crib can and should be near your bed so that you can always take action if needed.
  • Remove any cords, wires, or anything a baby can get tangled in away from the crib. They pose a danger of choking.
  • Buy a good crib which was well-researched and proven to prevent against SIDS.

Don’ts

  • Don’t share the bed with the baby and don’t let her sleep on any furniture that’s not her crib. Adult beds, sofas, armchairs – they are all dangerous for a baby to sleep on. If you need to breastfeed, your bed is the best solution. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends this practice for until the baby is one year old.
  • Don’t use anti-roll pillows. Although they are marketed as a help for the baby to remain in one position, the FDA warns these pillows pose a danger of suffocation.
  • Don’t let the baby sleep on any soft surfaces as these surfaces are dangerous – including adult beds, cushions, soft armchairs, etc.
  • Don’t fix a broken crib and don’t use a crib with removable sides.

Baby’s position and clothes

Do’s

  • Babies are recommended to sleep on the back, even if they suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
  • Use a swaddle to keep the baby safe and warm. When the baby starts rolling over, stop using it – that’s when swaddling becomes dangerous.
  • Remove any loose clothes, strings or ties from the baby’s clothes.
  • Use a pacifier. They may protect against SIDS and do not pose a danger when they fall out.
  • Have some tummy time every day. This is time your baby will spend on his or her tummy while awake. Put the baby in this position, but be alert – watch the baby. Spending some time in this position will prevent developing flat head syndrome. It also makes the neck and arms stronger.

Don’ts

  • Don’t let your baby sleep on the tummy. If the baby starts rolling and keeps changing the position, it’s ok, because she can always roll to another side.
  • Don’t use any monitors attached to the baby if the baby is healthy.
  • Don’t overdress your baby. Make sure the clothes is breathable, comfortable and not loose.

Additional protection against SIDS

Do’s

  • Vaccinate your child regularly. Vaccinations may help reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Keep the air in the bedroom fresh.
  • Breastfeed the baby. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of 6 months and, ideally, for about a year. They claim it helps against SIDS.

Don’ts

  • Don’t allow any cigarette smoke, strong perfumes or vapes in the child’s room. They pose a danger to the baby’s sensitive airways and lungs.
  • Don’t indulge in smoking, alcohol or taking drugs while pregnant or breastfeeding.

More about SIDS

Sudden infant death syndrome is a death of a baby up to 1 year of age whose death cause is not clearly visible unless there is examination. It could be a cause of choking because something blocked the baby’s airway, like soft bedding or a toy.

SIDS may happen due to premature birth, or exposure to harmful substances in the prenatal period (period before birth), like alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

Infections are another cause of infant death.

Caretakers or other people who care about your baby might not know all the rules of safe sleep, so be extra careful who you give your trust to. Make your rules a must and be sure to have them follow your list of safety precautions.

Additional resources

  1. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained. Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx Accessed March 26, 2019.
  2. Healthy Sleep Habits – A Guide For Parents.  Sleep Kid. https://www.sleepkid.com/parents-guide-healthy-sleep/ Accessed March 26, 2019
  3. Safe Sleep for Babies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/safesleep/index.html Accessed March 26, 2019.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.