As any parent knows, constant vigilance is the name of the newborn game, and that applies even to your baby’s sleep time.
Newborn babies lack the strength and coordination to move themselves away from an object that’s inhibiting their breathing. So, for those first several months, you need to add “safe sleeping” to your list of baby-care concerns.
Making Cribs Safe
Much of the nursery décor that packs store shelves and that well-meaning friends rain down on expectant parents is soft. That makes it look snuggly, sure, but it also makes it dangerous for infants.
A safe crib is an empty crib. Pass over stuffed toys and quilts and pretty much everything else when you make up a bed for your baby. Dress your baby in a temperature-appropriate sleeper, and lay him or her on a firm, sheet-covered mattress.
Resist the urge to cover your baby with a blanket, tuck him or her in with a stuffed animal to snuggle, or fancy up the crib with a bumper pad. Cute though they may be, those things are outright dangers to newborns because they can so easily end up covering airways and suffocating your little one.
You also want to make sure that you lay your baby down on his or her back. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are much more likely to suffocate because their faces may become pressed down into the mattress.
The effect of back-sleeping is clear: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome rates have dropped in the United States since 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics first recommended that parents place babies on their backs. Pacifiers, too, decrease the risk of SIDS.
Keeping Baby out of Your Bed
Being close to your newborn — sleeping in the same room, even — gives you and your baby a sense of security, and it makes late-night feeding and attention much easier. But some degree of distance is important for keeping your baby safe.
Putting your baby in a bassinet or crib in your room is great; putting him or her in bed with you is not.
Anne Marnocha, M.D., Medical Director for St.Vincent Carmel Hospital NICU, warns that exhaustion makes sleeping with an infant especially risky: “Sleep deprivation from getting up every few hours to feed your baby means you may be less likely to wake up enough to notice if your baby pushes his or her face into your body, pillow, or blanket. Suffocation risk makes sleeping with parents dangerous for young infants.”