When discussing infant sleep, it is important to always include safe sleep practices in the conversation. Do your best to follow the guidelines below in order to provide the safest possible sleep environment for your little one.
Back to Sleep
Always place your baby to sleep on their back. Studies show that once parents began placing their babies to sleep on their backs, the rate of SIDS dropped significantly. If you are concerned that your newborn will not be comfortable sleeping on their back, rest assured that they will enjoy sleeping in whatever position to which they are accustomed. By placing them on their back from day one, they will happily rest in this position. Do not use sleep positioners such as rolled up blankets or wedges as they increase the risk of suffocation.
In order to provide your baby with time when they are not lying on their back, be sure to offer them supervised tummy time. This will allow for the development of healthy muscles and the prevention of plagiocephaly, also known as flat head.
When placing your baby to sleep, protect them from becoming overheated by dressing them so that they can be comfortable at room temperature.
Where to Sleep
It is best to always place your baby to sleep in a crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets current Canadian safety regulations. This applies both at night and during the day when your little one is napping. When using a crib, make sure that the crib mattress is firm, covered with a fitted sheet, and perfectly fits the dimensions of the crib.
When infants sleep on soft surfaces such as beds, blankets, or sofas, they can become trapped and suffocate. For the same reason, soft bedding such as pillows, blankets, loose sheets, quilts and bumper pads can be hazardous to your baby.
Newborns can fall asleep almost anywhere but it is important to keep in mind that baby swings, bouncers, strollers and car seats are not designed for unsupervised sleep. If your baby’s head falls forward while they sleep in a sitting position, then they may have difficulty breathing. Young babies are not always able to wake themselves up when they are not receiving enough oxygen so it is best to always move your little one to their crib, cradle or bassinet to sleep, whenever possible.
Sharing Your Room
It is recommended that you place your baby’s crib, cradle, or bassinet in your room for the first six months. Studies consistently find that room sharing decreases the risk of SIDS. It also makes it easier to respond to your little one in the middle of the night because they can be just an arm’s reach away.
While room sharing is encouraged, bed sharing (or co-sleeping) is not, as this practice increases a baby’s risk of SIDS and suffocation. This risk is especially high for newborns. While the question of whether or not to co-sleep with your baby is personal, it is important to be aware of the risks.
Any amount of breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the rate of SIDS, and is recommended.
Second-hand smoke increases your baby’s risk of suffering from a SIDS-related death. Never smoke near your little one. Any smoker who is going to hold your baby should wash their hands before doing so to avoid exposing them to third-hand smoke.
Remember to discuss these practices with any caregiver who is looking after your baby to ensure that they are sleeping safely regardless of who is caring for them.
For more information on SIDS and safe sleep, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website.