How to Promote Safe Sleep for Your Baby

Three Parts:Creating a Safe Sleep EnvironmentPracticing Safe Sleep HabitsImproving Sleep Quality

To say that sleep is important is an understatement. Sleep is when your baby grows, develops, heals, and repairs wounds. Your baby grows so rapidly during the first year that it may seem like your baby sleeps all the time. Since so much time is spent sleeping, it's important that your baby is safe. A safe sleeping environment and habits are important to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Part 1
Creating a Safe Sleep Environment

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    Keep the crib or bed free of blankets, pillows, and toys. Babies can overheat or suffocate if the crib is full of soft materials that block the baby's face, especially if she hasn't learned to roll over yet. Your baby should sleep in a crib or bed that has a firm mattress and a clean fitted sheet. Don't put any blankets, pillows or soft toys in it.[1]
    • You should also avoid using crib bumpers which can suffocate, entrap, or strangle a baby. Most health authorities recommend against using them.
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    Room share while your baby is a newborn. While you shouldn't necessarily sleep with the baby in your bed, keeping the baby in your room during the first six months can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Your baby learns to regulate his breathing, you can respond to feeding demands, and calm any fussiness quickly when you share a room.[2][3]
    • You can keep the baby in a crib, bassinet, or bed extender in your room.
    • Consider moving the baby to his own room when you find that you're keeping him awake or his subtle movements keep you awake. Most people begin moving their babies into separate rooms at around 6 months old.[4]
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    Learn how to co-sleep safely. If you're breastfeeding and would like easy access to your baby at night, you might be considering co-sleeping. To co-sleep safely, place the baby next to you on a firm mattress, but make sure that there's a guardrail preventing the baby from rolling off of the bed. Choose one without slats to keep the baby's limbs from getting stuck in the rail. Always put the baby down on her back and make sure everyone in the bed has enough room to move. Be aware that even when done safely, studies show that babies who co-sleep are at higher risk of SIDS than those who sleep in their own crib. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against bed-sharing.[5] To avoid dangerous co-sleeping situations, avoid:[6]
    • Placing the baby in the middle of the bed between both parents.
    • Co-sleeping if you're on medications, have been drinking, or are exhausted.
    • Co-sleeping if you're obese.
    • Co-sleeping on a soft surface like a couch or waterbed.
    • Co-sleeping if you're not the baby's mother or father since you're probably not as attuned to when the baby rouses.
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    Avoid leaving a bottle in the crib or bed. If your baby is bottle fed, don’t give leave a bottle in the crib when you put the baby down for naps or bedtime. Babies can learn to depend on the bottle to fall asleep and the bottle is a choking hazard.
    • Research has shown that leaving the bottle in the crib with the baby can increase the risk of tooth decay and ear infections.[7]

Part 2
Practicing Safe Sleep Habits

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    Put your baby down on her back. While your mother or grandmother might swear by putting a baby down on her tummy, research shows that babies who sleep on their stomachs (even during nap times) are at a much higher risk for SIDS. Once your baby begins rolling over, don't worry if she rolls onto her stomach during the middle of the night, but always place her in the crib on her back initially.[8]
    • Tell your baby's caregivers — whether they're grandparents, babysitters, or child care provider s— that you want your baby to be put down on her back.
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    Avoid overdressing your baby. Since you aren't putting your baby in a crib or bed with blankets and pillows, you might think that your baby will be cold and need extra layers. But, babies that are too hot are at an increased risk for SIDS. Avoid swaddling your baby since this can keep him too warm and become loose becoming a choking hazard. Adjust the temperature if you are concerned about your baby being cold as opposed to overdressing him. To tell if your baby is too hot:[9]
    • Feel if his neck and head are hot or sweaty
    • Look for a heat rash or redness on his face
    • Watch for rapid breathing or restlessness
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    Consider using a pacifier. If your baby is interested in using a pacifier to calm herself, you can give it to her before naps and bedtime. Make sure the pacifier is clean, dry and not attached to any strings or clips. Research suggests that using a pacifier can decrease the risk of SIDS.[10]
    • If you're breastfeeding, avoid giving your baby a pacifier until she's nursing well or at least one month old.
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    Follow a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of SIDS. One of the best ways to keep your baby healthy is to keep yourself healthy. If you're currently pregnant, get regular prenatal care. You shouldn't smoke during or after pregnancy, since this can also increase your baby's risk for SIDS. Consider breastfeeding your baby since it's been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.[11]
    • Get your baby immunized. Immunizations can reduce the risk of SIDS by 50%.

Part 3
Improving Sleep Quality

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    Create a bedtime routine. While this may be difficult to do in the first few months when your baby is sleeping a lot, you should begin to develop a bedtime routine. This will teach your baby to recognize that it's time to start winding down for bed. Keep the routine simple and consistent. You should spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes on the routine. Some ideas you can include in your routine are:[12]
    • Bath time
    • Reading stories
    • Rocking quietly
    • Listening to calming music
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    Give your baby a chance to fall asleep on his own. Put him down when he is drowsy, but before he falls asleep. Most babies will fuss for a bit before falling asleep. If your baby is a few months old, wait about five minutes before responding to crying. It's easy to get into the habit of singing, rocking, or nursing your baby to sleep, but realize that these may become sleep crutches that the baby completely relies on to fall asleep.[13]
    • When you do go in to calm your baby, keep the room dim and be quiet. Calm your baby by a soothing touch, feeding, or walking around holding him. Place him back in the crib or bed when he's calm and let him fall asleep on his own.
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    Expose your baby to new things during the day. Your baby will sleep better if she's had a busy and active day. While you don't need to constantly be showing things to your baby, you can do simple things like singing, talking, playing, showing picture books, or letting her touch things.
    • This is more important after the first few months. For the first few weeks, a baby can only stay awake for a couple of hours before needing another nap.[14]
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    Teach your baby the difference between day and night. When a baby is born, he has no concept of day and night, so naturally he has no idea when to consolidate sleep. To help your baby learn the day and night rhythm that adults have, keep things bright and active during the day. Then, keep things quiet, calm, and dim in the evening to help your baby settle down.[15]
    • Remember that each baby is different. Some babies will adapt quickly and sleep through the night at an early age while others like to stay up late and nap longer throughout the day.
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    Watch for your baby's schedule. Since babies sleep needs change every month, keep track of how long and how many naps your baby takes, how long she's awake during the day, and what time she goes to bed and wakes. You may need to wake the baby in the morning so that you can start setting a sleep routine. But, many babies keep to a pretty regular wake time routine, so you could just track when your baby wakes up in the morning.
    • Most babies under three months old don't have much of a schedule since they're sleeping so often. Between 4 and 6 months, your baby should start sleeping longer stretches at night.[16]


  • You can begin to expect longer stretches of sleep for baby after about 3 months. Be patient and remember that sleep changes take time.
  • Be cautious about buying products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Childhood Health