By now, most of us already know that we’re supposed to lay our babies down to sleep on their backs. That isn’t exactly news. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been saying that loud and clear since 1994’s Back to Sleep program. Even before then, most pediatricians were recommending back sleep to new parents.
Between now and then, researchers have discovered many risk factors which contribute to the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Despite a significant drop, SIDS is still the most common cause of death amongst babies who have passed the newborn stage. SIDS is rare in the first month. Two to three month old babies are the greatest risk for SIDS.
Many of the discoveries regarding SIDS risk factors have had to do with the baby’s sleep environment. The APA has made a number of recommendations regarding safe sleep environments for babies. These include:
- Sleeping in the same room with parents, but not the same bed. This may rub some proponents of attachment parenting the wrong way, but co-sleeping (sharing the bed with parents), especially when parents have a soft mattress, has been shown to be a contributing factor to SIDS. Have your baby sleep in a crib in the same room instead. This allows you to react to baby quickly without putting her at risk.
- Use a firm mattress or sleep surface for baby. Whether baby sleeps in a crib, a playpen, or a bassinette, the sleeping surface should be firm.
- Keep toys, pillows, and other soft objects out of baby’s sleep area. The only thing in the crib should be the baby.
- Use a fitted sheet, with no loose sheets or blankets. A blanket is OK, as long as it is firmly tucked in or firmly swaddled. A better option is a sleep sack.
SIDS research continues. The APA makes new information available as it becomes known. While it is unlikely that we will ever be able to completely eradicate all instances of SIDS, following the baby sleep guidelines your pediatrician gives you is a good start. Above all, remember to put your baby down to sleep on her back.