There’s a lot of grey area when you become a new parent—so much can be left up to feeling and what works for your new family. But the environment your baby sleeps in should not be a grey area. Toronto paediatrician Joelene Huber puts it simply: “Babies should be placed to sleep on their backs in a crib that meets safety standard regulations and that is free of clutter (bumper pads, quilts, pillows, stuffed toys, etc.), which can be hazardous,” she says. Loose bedding is a known risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Despite this, a new study in the January 2015 issue of Pediatrics reveals that half of US babies are still being put to sleep with blankets, quilts and other unsafe items. Researchers found that the use of loose bedding declined over the course of seven years, but still remained common practice. From 1993 to 1995, the rate of bedding use was nearly 86 percent, and it declined to 55 percent from 2008 to 2010. The study also showed that the rate was highest among babies sleeping in adult beds, those put to sleep on their sides or those sharing a sleep surface. “Bed-sharing is not recommended and also places the baby at risk,” says Huber. “Adult beds and bedding are not specifically designed with babies’ safety in mind.”
Read more: The latest on co-sleeping and SIDS>
It is, however, natural and actually safer for babies to be close to their parent(s) when they are sleeping, particularly during the first six months of life when the risk of SIDS is highest. Room sharing, with baby in a crib beside the parents’ bed and within arm’s reach, keeps baby in a safe sleep environment and reduces the risk of SIDS, says Huber.
- Bed surface should be firm (no waterbeds, beanbags, pillows or sheepskins).
- No cracks or crevices between the headboard, footboard or sides of the bed where the baby could get wedged in.
- No smoking near the baby. Second-hand smoke increases the risk of SIDS. The mother should never smoke and co-sleep, even away from the baby.
- No extra bodies (other children, pets) in the bed.
- Babies should not be placed on couches, recliners or anywhere they can roll and get trapped in a crevice.
- Bedding should be tightly fitted to the mattress and area surrounding the baby clear of loose blankets, pillows, etc.
- If either parent is overly tired, or has consumed alcohol or drugs of any kind, they should not bed-share with the baby.
- Babies should always be placed on their back to sleep.
- Both parents have to be in agreement that the bed is the best place for the baby.
Watch this video: Safe co-sleeping tips>