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Follow these safe sleep guidelines for babies 

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics drive home the importance of safe sleep practices for babies. In Connecticut, unsafe sleep is the leading cause of preventable infant death.

“It’s something we’ve been diligently working on to understand why this happens and how to prevent it,” said Kirsten Bechtel, MD, principal investigator of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine.

Safe sleep guidelines

Staff at Yale New Haven Health hospitals give new parents the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations, which say babies should sleep alone in a crib or bassinet on their backs. There should be no toys, blankets or pillows in the crib and the baby should be in pajamas or a sleep sack. Pacifiers have been associated with a decreased risk of sleep-related deaths but if a baby falls asleep with a pacifier and it falls out, that’s fine.

At first, it might be easy for parents to stick to these guidelines, but over time, they may be tempted to bring their baby into bed with them when they are sleep-deprived. However, bed-sharing, or the practice of parents sleeping next to their baby in an adult bed, is associated with an increased risk of suffocation.

Hidden sleep dangers

In addition to bed sharing, it can be dangerous for parents to fall asleep on a chair or couch while their baby is on their chest. Dr. Bechtel said there have been cases where the baby falls or gets caught between the furniture and the parent and suffocates. Therefore, during nighttime feedings, parents should plan for ways to stay awake until the baby is back safely in the crib.

Another hidden danger is using a weighted baby blanket to keep babies on their back. If a baby is old enough to roll over, it is safer for them to do so without any other items in the crib.

Safe cribs and crib mattresses

When parents are shopping for a crib, there are a few things they should look for. The bars on a crib should not be any more than 2 3/8 inches apart, and there should not be any bars that are cracked or missing. The crib mattress should fit snugly inside the crib so the baby cannot get stuck between the base of the crib and the crib mattress.

Getting trusted sleep advice

A lot of sleep advice or sleep products marketed toward parents can cause anxiety. Even with safe sleep practices in place, babies are going to keep their parents up at night.

“The first year of life, nighttime awakenings are going to be common. At six months a baby might sleep through the night and then at seven months start waking up again,” Dr. Bechtel said.

Anyone worried about their baby’s sleep habits should avoid late-night internet searches and instead speak with their pediatrician.

For the latest recommendations on safe sleep, visit safe sleep topics at the American Academy of Pediatrics website.