From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


Keeping Your Baby Safe While Sleeping

Posted , updated Jun 07, 2005.

Keeping Your Baby Safe While Sleeping
Infants (especially newborns) spend a large part of every day sleeping. For most babies, this is a safe, quiet time to rest. But there are some things that parents and caregivers should keep in mind when putting babies down to sleep

[In 1997 almost 3000 infants died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while sleeping.]

In 2003, the rate of SIDS was 52.9 per 100,000 births. Most SIDS death occur when a baby is between two and four months of age. The cause of SIDS is still unknown, but it is the third leading cause of infant deaths in the United States. Deaths due to SIDS have been declining since health agencies have been encouraging parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, but in 1996, there were almost 800 additional accidental infant deaths, mostly due to suffocation.

Experts feel that many of these deaths could have been prevented. This has led agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development to recommend that NO soft bedding of any kind be used in a child’s crib.

Should My Baby Sleep in Bed with Me?

Many parents have babies sleep in their beds with them (a practice called co-sleeping). Since 1999, the CPSC has recommended that infants NOT sleep in a bed with their parents or other adults.

This recommendation was made after studies showed that 180 children under the age of 2 died from 1999 through 2001 after being placed in adult beds. Some of these deaths occured because an adult rolled over on the child, but most of the deaths occured when children got caught between a bed and a wall, headboard, or another piece of furniture and couldn’t breathe.

The CPSC recommends infants sleep in cribs because cribs made after 1982 have been especially designed to reduce the risk of injury to infants. Although the CPSC recommendation was made with the safety of infants in mind, it has been criticized by many parents and experts.

Why do Some People Encourage Co-sleeping?

In many other cultures it is considered normal for infants to sleep with their parents. Some people, including some doctors and scientists, think that there are benefits to infants and their parents sleeping together. Although scientific studies have not been conclusive, there is some evidence that certain sleeping practices may reduce the risk of death from SIDS. In countries such as Japan where co-sleeping is common, rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are low.

Co-sleeping also makes it easier to breast-feed your baby. Breast-feeding has many health benefits such as decreasing the number of ear infections, colds, and other illnesses in babies.

Finally, many parents simply enjoy having their infants next to them and feel that co-sleeping fosters a sense of closeness between them and their infant. As a parent, you need to decide the best place for your child to sleep. Whatever choice you make, you can reduce the risk of danger to your baby by following the advice below.

How Can I Put My Baby to Sleep Safely?

No matter where your baby sleeps:

  • Put infants to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. Do not place soft bedding such as pillows, foam pads, comforters, or sheepskins under or over your baby.
  • Consider using a sleeper instead of a blanket.
  • Avoid sleeping areas near curtains or blinds that have dangling strings that could strangle an infant.
  • Do not smoke. Exposure to cigarette smoke increases the risk of SIDS, especially in infants who co-sleep with parents.
  • Avoid letting your baby overheat during sleep. Dress your baby in light clothing and keep the room as a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  • Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing your baby down to sleep.

If you choose to have your baby sleep in a crib:

Choose a safe crib:

  • Use a crib made after 1982 that meets current safety standards. Crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart
  • No corner posts over 1/16” high so a baby’s clothing cannot catch.
  • No cutout designs in the headboard or foodtboard
  • A firm, tight-fitting mattress so a baby cannot get trapped between the mattress and the crib

Also remember:

  • Remove all soft products (pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys) from the crib. If you do use a blanket, put the child’s feet at the foot of the crib, cover from the waist down, and tuck the blanket around the mattress.
  • Keep crib rails up. At 5 months (or when baby can pull up) lower the crib mattress.

If you choose to sleep with your infant:

  • Avoid waterbeds, beanbags, down comforters, and overly padded bedding under the infant.
  • Don’t place infants in beds with gaps or ledges between a mattress and wall or furniture, or in beds with side rails, footboards or slatted headboards (to prevent infant from getting wedged or trapped).
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs – it might keep you from noticing that your baby might be in trouble.
For more information on crib safety, visit

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