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Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of the Snohomish Health District as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at SHDInfo@snohd.org.

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Apr 04

G is for Get Babies to Sleep Safely

Posted on April 4, 2022 at 12:44 PM by Kari Bray

This is Part 7 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABCs of Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.  

Top Three Take-Aways:  

  1. Most sleep-related infant deaths are preventable. 
  2. Babies younger than 1 year old should always be put to sleep on their back and alone in a crib, bassinet or pack-and-play with a flat, firm surface. 
  3. Having your baby’s crib in the same room you sleep in is a great idea. However, you should never share a bed with your baby.  

How you put your baby to sleep matters 

Parents and other caregivers make decisions every day for infants – what to dress them in, where to go, what activities to do, when and what to feed them. It's a lot of work. 

How you put a baby down to sleep might not seem like the biggest decision you make for them that day, but it is a vitally important one. 

There are about 3,500 sleep-related infant deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2021, here in Snohomish County, we lost more babies to sleep-related deaths than we lost youth to suicide.  

The loss of a baby is devastating. Widespread understanding and support of safe sleep is needed. We urge all caregivers to learn about safe sleep and share that information in their social circles. 

Babies who are younger than 1 year old should sleep: sleeping baby

  • alone  
  • on their back  
  • in a crib  

These are the ABC’s of Safe Sleep – Alone, Back, Crib. They are a solid place to start in helping reduce the number of infants who die during sleep. 

Not worth the risk 

The safe sleep rules – alone, back, crib – apply at least through a baby’s first birthday. This is for naps as well as nighttime.  

Babies need to be able to breathe well all through the night, which means there shouldn’t be anything that could potentially smother them, including blankets, pillows, soft toys, or other people. They also need an open airway, so a flat surface is best – inclined sleepers angle their head and neck in a way that can interfere with breathing.  

The risks are clear from reviews of sleep-related deaths. 

  • Do not co-sleep: Babies under the age of 1 should NEVER share a bed with other people. It’s recommended that babies sleep in the same room as parents, but always in their own crib. 
  • No soft or loose items: Babies don’t need pillows or snuggly toys in their crib. Instead of blankets, dress them in seasonally appropriate clothing and consider using a sleep sack (here's one example).
  • Babies should sleep in a crib, bassinet or pack-and-play: Use the mattress the product came with, and have only a tightly fitted sheet on that mattress.  
  • Babies are safer sleeping on their backs: As babies learn to roll over on their own, double check that there is nothing in the crib that could get stuck around their neck or over their face. 

Just because it’s sold doesn’t mean it’s safe  

Products that may seem helpful for sleeping babies can actually be dangerous.  

This could include items that are not used as intended. For example, car seats, strollers or bouncers weren’t designed to be cribs. Even if your infant dozes off in the car seat, transfer them to a crib, bassinet or pack-and-play as soon as possible. 

Some products sold specifically for sleeping also can be hazardous. Inclined sleepers come in many varieties. But remember, flat surfaces are safest. 

You can check www.cpsc.gov/Recalls and sort by the “Babies and Kids” category to see products that have been recalled due to safety issues. However, even if the product has not been recalled, never leave a baby unattended in an inclined sleeper or lounger. 

Other products to avoid include: weighted sleep sacks; sleep positioners/wedges; crib bumpers; crib tents; baby nests, docks, or nappers; baby hammocks; and baby pillows. You may see products that claim to soothe babies to sleep, imitate the weight of a mom’s touch, or prevent flat heads. Focus instead on whether a product is as safe as possible. If it interferes with any of the safe sleep rules – alone, back, crib – then that product is not the best option for your baby. 

Spread the word 

  • safe sleep cheat sheetShare information about safe sleep. If you see an article, flyer, video or other material that resonates with you, pass it along to your social networks, particularly any parent groups or circles with other caregivers like grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters, child care providers, etc. 
  • Have conversations. Parents often turn to one another. Sharing in the triumphs and struggles of raising a little human creates a bond. The next time you talk with a friend about the sleepless nights of early parenthood, consider talking about safe sleep, too. Coming from a place of friendship is more impactful and may feel less judgmental than information from strangers. 
  • Invited to a baby shower? Make sure any gifts you get are sleep safe – no inclined sleepers, baby pillows or weighted sleep sacks. If you notice someone has an unsafe product on their wish list, consider politely saying something: “I saw the crib bumpers on your registry. They look really cute, but bumpers can be dangerous for babies, and I would be heartbroken if anything happened to your little one. Is there something else we could get you instead?”

More resources

Take some time now to check off the “G” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. Does your baby have a safe sleep environment? 

Most sleep-related infant deaths are preventable. Anyone can help by sharing safe sleep information and by being supportive of new parents or caregivers. 

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