Setting up a safe sleep environment for your baby will be one of the most important things you do as a parent. Creating a safe sleep environment can reduce your baby’s risk for sudden infant death and other complications. Your baby will spend most of their day and night sleeping during their first year. Therefor, their sleeping environment should be the safest place in the house. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you create a safe sleep environment for your little one. These tips are all based on the current recommendations by the AAP.
Choose a firm sleep surface and mattress – One of the best ways to create a safe sleep space is to choose the proper sleeping surface. It is important to place your baby to sleep in a pack and play, bassinet, or crib. Make sure your crib is up to date on current safety standards. This includes not using a drop-side crib, having cribs slats no more than 6 cm. apart, and more. These safety standards were updated in 2011 so anything manufactured before that should be closely inspected.
It is equally important to use a proper mattress in your baby’s crib. You will want to select a firm mattress for your baby’s crib. A soft mattress can conform to your baby’s head or face increasing the risk of suffocation. You will need to make sure that the mattress you buy fits the crib properly. There should be gaps no larger than 2 fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress.
Use only a fitted sheet in the crib – Your baby’s crib should be bare with the exception of a fitted sheet. This means no stuffed animals, crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, toys, etc. All of these items can be a suffocation hazard for babies under 1 year.
Find the proper place to set up the crib – When you are choosing where to place your baby’s crib there are a few things to consider. You will want to keep your baby’s crib away from windows with blinds and cords from electronics (like the baby monitor). Cords are a hazard to babies because they can easily strangle themselves.
Remember back is best – One of the best ways to give your a baby a safe sleep environment is to place them to sleep on their back every time. This includes nap time as well. Once your baby learns to roll from back to belly and vice versa you don’t need to worry if they change positions once they are asleep. However, it is still important to for them to be placed on their back at the start of each sleep.
Dress your baby appropriately at bedtime – Dress your baby in one more layer than what you would wear at bedtime. For example, a one piece sleeper and a swaddle. Also, make sure to keep their head uncovered to avoid overheating. The best place to monitor your baby’s temperature is the back of their neck. If they feel sweaty remove one layer of clothing. If they feel too cold then add another layer.
Stop swaddling at the appropriate time – It is important to stop swaddling your baby at bedtime once they develop the ability to roll. When swaddled, your baby can get stuck on their stomach and not be able to get back. Some babies start to roll as early as two to three months. Once you transition your baby out of the swaddle you can use a sleep sack. This will help keep your baby warm at night without restricting access to their arms.
Room share for the first 6 months – The AAP now recommends room sharing for at least the first six months, but ideally until 1 year. It is important to keep your baby in their own sleep space instead of in your bed. Place them in a pack and play, bassinet, or crib next to your bed. Not only does this reduce the risk of SIDS, but it also makes for easy middle of the night feeds.
Make sure your baby’s room is the right temperature – The ideal temperature to set your thermostat at will be between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for a safe sleep environment. Adults sleep better at a cooler temperature. It’s the exact same for your baby. I would experiment somewhere in that range until you find the perfect temperature for your little one.