Baby sleeping under a blanket

Safe Sleep 101: Protecting Newborns and Encouraging Good Sleeping Habits

Newborns have erratic schedules, but they can sleep up to 20 hours a day. This downtime is essential for their ongoing brain development and physical growth. While these sleeping patterns will hardly ever occur in consecutive hours, you’ll eventually learn to try and catch some sleep while your newborn is doing the same. However, during those first few months, you may feel some anxiety whenever your newborn closes their eyes. With the risk of SIDS, you may feel the ongoing need to check on your newborn’s breathing. That’s why safe sleeping habits are essential. Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about safe sleep, including protecting newborns and encouraging good sleeping habits.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby under the age of 1-year-old. According to the CDC, about 3,600 babies in the United States die from SIDS each year. Of this number, over 90% of SIDS deaths occur before babies are 6 months, most of which occur between 1 and 4 months. These statistics are not meant to scare new parents, especially because the risk of SIDS is considerably low when compared to the birth rate each year. However, since safe sleep is a proactive way to help reduce the chances of SIDS, the numbers are worth mentioning.

The Importance of Safe Sleep

Safe sleep is one of the best ways to reduce your baby’s risk for SIDS throughout the night. When sleep habits were first associated with SIDS, and appropriate preventative measures were taken, the rate of SIDS dropped by nearly 50%. While SIDS can still occur even in ideal sleeping environments, safe sleep helps to prevent its occurrence. For more information on SIDS and safe sleep for babies from the CDC, click here.

Creating a Safe Sleeping Atmosphere

The first step to making sure your baby is sleeping safely is to create a safe atmosphere. Some organizations recommend keeping your baby’s sleeping quarters in your room for the first few months of life or until they’re a year old. While this isn’t 100% necessary to help prevent SIDS, it makes the process of checking on your baby easier and is therefore, good for those experiencing sleep anxiety.

Find a simple crib or bassinet that isn’t laden with any unnecessary excess. In terms of safe sleep for newborns, less is more. Make sure that the mattress is firm in a crib and is properly covered with a fitted sheet. The fitted sheet should be tightly intact so that there is no possibility that it comes off or loosens during the night. Do not fill your baby’s crib with stuffed animals, toys, or blankets. Your crib is for your baby and your baby alone.

Another way you can help create a safe sleeping atmosphere is by adding a fan to boost air flow. It’s been found that this additional air flow helps create a safer environment to reduce SIDS.

Acronym for Safe Sleep: ABC

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) created an acronym to help parents remember the three primary facets of safe sleep: ABC.

  • A: Alone – your baby should be the only thing in the crib.
  • B: Back – you should always put your baby to sleep on their back.
  • C: Crib – your baby should sleep in a certified crib (or certified sleeping bassinet).


Creating a Safe Bedtime Ritual

After creating a safe sleeping environment and becoming familiarized with the AAP’s safe sleep acronym, it’s time to work on creating a safe bedtime ritual. This should be done every single time you put your baby to sleep.

  1. Put Your Baby on Their Back

    Just because you find sleeping on your side more comfortable does not mean that your baby will too. Babies absolutely need to sleep on their back. It is one of the easiest, most effective way to reduce the chances of SIDS. Safe sleep starts on the back, so don’t even consider another position. Eventually, when your baby can roll around on their own, the risk of SIDS will have dropped, and they’ll be able to determine which sleeping position they enjoy best. To strengthen the muscles your baby uses for rolling over, schedule plenty of tummy time throughout the day.

  2. Swaddle Correctly

    The AAP has a neutral stance on swaddling. While swaddling can help keep your baby’s position neutral, it also makes it more difficult for your baby to get out of a dangerous position if they roll over or are put to sleep in the wrong position. If they are swaddled, it needs to be done correctly and the AAP recommends that parents only swaddle babies when they can monitor them. Take the time to learn how to swaddle correctly and avoid using any additional products that claim to reduce the occurrence of SIDS.

  3. Utilize a Firm Surface

    Another important aspect in safe sleep is utilizing a firm sleeping surface. While you might think that your baby will be more comfortable with a soft, cozy mattress or pillow, they won’t. Utilizing soft sleeping surfaces are not safe. They conform to your baby’s body and increase the risk that your baby will get into a position that makes it harder for them to breathe. If a newborn who cannot rollover finds themselves in a dangerous position, they won’t be able to get out of it on their own.

  4. Avoid Overheating

    Newborn bodies are still in the process of mastering temperature regulation, so overheating is easy. Support your baby’s body temperature regulation by dressing them in a comfortable yet efficient way. Don’t over-bundle your baby and make sure that the room stays a constant temperature throughout the night. Many experts suggest dressing your baby in one layer more than what you’re comfortably wearing when you put them to sleep.

  5. Remove Everything in the Crib

    While those stuffed animals and customized blankets or pillows might look cute in the crib, they’re a disaster waiting to happen. Your baby should be the only thing in the crib for the first year of their life. Safety is the only thing you should be focused on. That means that there should be absolutely nothing in your crib or bassinet aside from your newborn. Avoid stuffed animals, bumper pads, blankets, toys, crib curtains, or any wedge that “helps” reduce SIDS.

  6. Breastfeed

    Studies have shown that babies who were breastfed exclusively had about half of the risk of SIDS than babies that are given formula. Therefore, to help support your baby’s safe sleep habits, we always recommend breastfeeding, especially in those first few months of life. You can utilize breast pumps to help supplement nursing and share the feedings with your partner.

  7. Keep Separate Sleeping Area

While the idea of co-sleeping has become more popular in recent years, the AAP recommends against it—at least until your baby is over a year old. Since babies can easily suffocate on bedding, pillows, or even your clothing/skin, keep separate sleeping spaces. Instead, share a room. Utilize a specialized side bed attachment on your bed or keep the crib/bassinet in the same room but avoid intentionally falling asleep together in your bed. Make sure that your sleeping aid is approved and certified by the CDC and/or AAP.

If you are going to utilize a caretaker, babysitter, or have friends or family watch your newborn, take the time to thoroughly explain these aspects of safe sleep. Doing this will help them properly care for your child while reducing the risk of SIDS. Don’t be afraid to leave instructions and always let them know that they can call with any questions or clarifications.

Tips to Improve Your Newborn’s Sleep Habits

Contrary to what you might think, not all babies are natural sleepers. Some need a little help in learning how to shut their eyes and drift off. To improve your newborn’s sleep habits and encourage healthy habits into adulthood, take the time to learn your baby’s sleepy signs and create a routine for sleep preparation. Don’t wait until your newborn has fallen asleep, instead, put your baby into the crib or bassinet before they’re asleep so they can become comfortable with falling asleep on their own. Avoid immediately rushing in every time your baby starts to fuss and try to keep nighttime as dark and quiet as possible–especially when changing a diaper or nursing.

Breastfeeding has several unbeatable benefits but it’s not easy to exclusively nurse every single day. To supplement your feedings and make sure that your baby is getting the essential nutrients they need to develop and stay healthy, breast pumps can help. Byram Healthcare has a wide range of insurance covered breast pumps at no out of pocket cost to you.