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7 Rules for Safe Baby Sleep

Why AAP's new rules around SIDS should matter.

7 Rules for Safe Baby Sleep

I’m a strong believer in evidence-based medicine, and we know we can take steps to keep our babies safe during their sleep. But one of my greatest fears as a mom is still sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS. And while we’ve been talking about SIDS in the medical community for quite some time, this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released updated guidelines for safe sleep, warranting a closer look at this disconcerting issue.

SIDS is any sudden or unexpected infant death that occurs during sleep within the first year of life and that cannot be explained after thorough investigation. Most SIDS cases occur within the first six months of life, and babies between the ages of 2 and 4 months are at the highest risk. SIDS remains the leading cause of death among U.S. babies, claiming close to 3,500 lives each year.

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We don’t know what causes sudden infant death, but research suggests that brain abnormalities, genetics and hazardous environmental factors, like loose blankets and smoking households, can play a role. And though there is no way to test for which children have an underlying vulnerability, certain babies, such as premature infants, are at increased risk. We also know that breastfeeding decreases the risk of SIDS. Here are the AAP’s new safe-sleep recommendations to help reduce your little one’s risk of SIDS:

1. Back to sleep for EVERY sleep. Infants under the age of one should always be put down and sleep on their backs -- at nap time and at night. Many parents worry about their babies spitting up and choking if placed flat on their back, particularly if they have gastrointestinal reflux, but the AAP asserts that the supine position doesn’t increase the risk of infant choking. If your baby has a medical condition that you feel necessitates sleeping on their tummy, please discuss it with your physician. Once your little one can roll over, continue to put him down on his back, but you can let him sleep on his stomach if he ends up rolling himself into that position.

2. Use a firm sleep surface. Infants should be put to sleep on a firm mattress in a crib or bassinet that adheres to the newest standards of safety. Mattresses that are too soft can create an indentation or pocket that creates the risk of rebreathing or suffocation as your baby gets old enough to roll over. Since rolling over is a normal part of gross motor development in the first six months of your little one’s life, a breathable mattress can be helpful. A breathable mattress, such as Newton Rest, provides your baby with the support she needs while allowing air to circulate. It also has the added benefit of preventing overheating (more on that soon!). But remember, a breathable mattress is not an excuse to forget about other safe-sleep practices. Make sure, also, to use only mattresses that are approved for that specific product (for example, don’t put a crib mattress into a Pack n’ Play).

3. Only the baby should be in the crib. Do not place blankets, pillows, bumpers or stuffed animals in the crib. The mattress can be covered with a fitted sheet with no additional bedding or soft objects.

4. Avoid putting babies to sleep in car seats, swings, or bouncers. Infants have poor neck control, and if their heads fall forward they can inadvertently cut off their trachea (air pipe) and stop breathing. This is known as positional asphyxia. If a baby falls asleep in one of these devices, the AAP recommends to move them to a safe-sleep space as soon as possible.

5. Keep your baby’s crib in the same room, close to your bed. This is the newest recommendation. According to the AAP, an infant should sleep in the same room as his parents, in his own crib or bassinet, for at least 6 months and ideally the first year. Research suggests having the baby sleep in the parent’s room on a separate surface can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to fifty percent. Couches or arm chairs are particularly dangerous spaces for infants to sleep in, increasing the risk of being trapped in cushion and of infant deaths.

6. Put the baby back into the crib after feeding or cuddling. The AAP recommends infants return to a separate sleep space after feeding. It also advises to feed in an environment that is safe for sleep in case you fall asleep. Don’t feed your baby on a couch in the middle of the night. Opt for an adult bed instead, and make sure that it is as safe as possible: no pillows, blankets or other objects that could obstruct the baby’s breathing when feeding in bed. If you have had any alcoholic drink, sleeping in the bed with your little one is not safe. The AAP statement notes that bedsharing with infants that are younger than four months or premature can increase the risk of SIDS. So do everything you can to stay awake and return the baby to his crib or bassinet once he is done eating. In addition, if you or your partner smoke or take medication that can increase drowsiness, you should avoid bed-sharing.

7. Avoid overheating when sleeping. Studies have shown that overheating increases the risk of SIDS. Dress your little one in one light layer more than you have on, and do not cover his head. If your baby is sweating a lot, he’s probably over bundled. Are you worried your little guy may be cold? Use a swaddle or sleep sack to keep him comfortable. Once your little one shows signs of being ready to roll, stop swaddling and use only a sleep sack -- no loose blanket.

As a pediatrician and a mom, I get it, you can’t control everything in life. That’s actually one of my most difficult parenting struggles. But as parents, we do have areas in which we can feel empowered to make the best choices for our children, and sleep safety is one of them.

While extrinsic factors are involved in SIDS-related deaths, SIDS is also related to intrinsic biological factors that infants may have that parents cannot prevent and don’t know about. This means that parents can “do everything right” and provide the safest sleeping environment possible, and their child may still fall victim of SIDS. We know how frightening this lack of control can be. If you are facing extreme levels of anxiety about any parenting issues and specifically about SIDS, reach out to your pediatrician for support and guidance.

Furthermore, exhaustion can be really challenging for new parents. Don’t be afraid to accept or ask for help. At Premier Pediatrics, we are strongly committed to supporting families as they transition from pregnancy to parenthood. We get that you may have questions about sleep safety or other topics. We understand that you may be getting conflicting information from lots of sources and are available to discuss your concerns in an open-minded and non-judgmental way. If you have questions about sleep safety, it’s always best to be safe than sorry and contact your pediatrician, it’s always best to reach out and check our bookshelf for information on common pediatric topics.

Photography by Jonica Moore Studio for Well Rounded.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

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Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

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Hands-Free Pumping Bra

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Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

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Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

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Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

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There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

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Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

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Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

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Breast Milk Storage Bags

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The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

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Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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