You have the perfect nursery with all of the recommended baby items that your BFF said you HAD to have. You’ve read the books and the blogs. You’ve made the choice on how to feed your baby. Now what about sleep? Should baby sleep in the bassinet or go straight to the crib? Does baby need to be swaddled? What about a blanket? A lovey? A pacifier? So many questions, so many choices. It’s tough to know where to look for reliable answers.
No matter what you choose, your baby’s safety should be first and foremost. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a ton of helpful guidelines, and we’ve broken down the ABCs for you. Here are 6 rules to follow for baby sleep safety.
A is for Alone. In other words, room share, don't bed share. Co-sleeping is a hot button topic. There are Facebook groups, mommy blogs and articles devoted to both sides of the debate. The AAP has firmly stated that that co-sleeping (aka bed-sharing, aka bringing your baby into your bed) is unsafe and can result in tragic consequences. You may think that putting a baby lounger or sleep positioner (like a Dock-a-Tot) on your bed will make it safe to bedshare. Not true. Those products aren’t approved for sleep by the AAP. So it's best to skip those all together and set up a bassinet in your room so baby can be close by but in their own safe sleep space. The AAP recommends keeping baby in your room for at least the first six months, ideally up to a year.
B is for back. According to the AAP and the back-to-sleep campaign that launched in the 90s, back is best. Put baby to sleep on their back Every. Single. Time. They don’t have enough head control to turn to the side if placed on their tummies. This guideline is especially important for preterm babies. Don’t worry -- your little ones have airways that prevent them from choking while on their backs.
C is for crib. This means no swing, Rock N Play, or car seat. It is so tempting, especially with reflux babies, to let them sleep for an extended period of time in one of these. The AAP strongly discourages this practice. Even though you’ve seen your BFF’s little one snoozing peacefully in a Rock n’ Play, the AAP and FDA have stated that products like these and other sleep positioners are not safe for sleep. A Mamaroo, Boppy, swing and other similar products are great tools to soothe baby but they must then be moved to a safe sleeping space.
D is for "don’t be afraid of the pacifier." There has always been debate about pacifiers and we’re sure it will continue. Whether or not to use a pacifier is a personal choice, especially if you’re breastfeeding. But there is new research showing that pacifier use at sleep times can be protective against SIDS. Don’t attach it to baby’s clothes in any way. It might take a few tries to find one your baby likes but once you discover one, buy a few!
E is for empty. Don't try to make the crib or bassinet cozy -- babies don't care about that. So keep the blanket that Aunt Linda made for stroller walks, not for use in the crib. No blankets, pillows, lovies, stuffed animals, baby loungers, bumpers or other soft, cushy items should be in baby’s crib or bassinet. Once baby is at least a year, you can introduce a small lovey like these.
F is for firm, flat sleep surface. You might like your Sleep Number setting super soft but firm and flat is what your baby needs. Look for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) seal of approval on mattresses, cribs and bassinets. If your baby has reflux, resist putting a wedge under the mattress or modifying the crib/bassinet so that it’s on an incline--per the latest AAP guidelines, this isn’t safe.
Use these simple reminders each time you put baby down. Still unsure? Go to this Facebook group where educated moderators will help you navigate the complicated world of safe sleep. Sleeping through the night will come. Give your baby the best start possible with a safe place to develop a healthy foundation for sleep.
Leigh McMahon is a certified sleep consultant with Bonne Nuit Baby. Based in Denver, Colorado, she helps babies and children learn how to be champion sleepers so their parents can stay sane and cut down on the double espressos. Learn more about us at @_bonnenuitbaby and follow her adventures of being a #boymom at @bonnenuitdenver.