Dr. Sarah Denny’s Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Safe Sleep
Where is the safest place for my baby to sleep?
The safest place for your baby to sleep is alone, in her own crib, with nothing else in the crib. Since the Back to Sleep Campaign started in the 90’s, we have seen a significant reduction in the amount of sleep-related infant deaths, just from placing babies to sleep on their back.
If my baby is sleeping on his back, is he more likely to choke?
No, in fact, he is actually less likely to choke on his back. When your baby is lying on his back, the breathing tube (trachea) lays on top of the feeding tube (esophagus). It is harder for stomach contents to come up from the stomach and into the airway when the baby is on his back.
How can I hear if my baby needs me if he is in his own crib?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing, not bed sharing. You can set up a crib or a portable crib in your room with you so that you can hear your baby and get to your baby easily for feedings, but the baby is not in the bed with you. In fact, room sharing has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS.
Isn’t it better for my baby to be snuggled in bed with me?
No! Babies who share a bed with adults are much more likely to die of sleep-related deaths than those who sleep in their own bed, especially if the adult smokes, has been drinking or using drugs. Babies can become trapped between the mattress and the headboard, suffocate on the blankets and pillows, or get rolled on by adults, siblings or pets in the bed. Your baby should be in her own bed for every sleep!
I am afraid that my baby is going to hit his head on the crib. Is it ok to use those cute little bumpers?
No! Crib bumpers, pillows and other soft bedding have been implicated in many infant suffocation deaths. Babies are not strong enough to injure themselves on the crib slats. It is best to use a firm mattress with a fitted sheet and have nothing other than your baby in the crib.
My baby cries when I put him to bed on his back. Is it ok to put him on his tummy or side?
No, studies show that the safest place for your baby is on his back. If you are consistent about putting your baby to sleep on his back, he will get used to it and you will be keeping him safe.
It has been really cold this winter. Is it ok to put a blanket on my baby?
Soft bedding and loose blankets have been responsible for the suffocation of many babies. Using a sleep sack keeps the baby warm while sleeping without having the risk of loose blankets that might suffocate her. Overheating has been implicated in SIDS as well. A sleep sack keeps babies warm without overheating them.
I am afraid my baby is going to fall off the couch when we nap. Is it ok to put him between me and the back of the couch to prevent him from falling?
Couches and recliners are common sites for infant suffocation, second only to an adult bed. Babies can become wedged in the cushions or trapped between the adult and the cushions, keeping the baby from breathing. Do not nap with your baby on the couch or recliner. Put your baby in the crib for every sleep.
I see SIDS alarms in the baby store. Should I get one to prevent my baby from dying of SIDS?
The alarms that have been marketed to prevent SIDS have never been shown to prevent deaths. Recently they have actually been implicated in infant injury and even death.
I keep hearing about babies dying from sleep-related deaths. What else can I do to keep my baby safe?
- Get good prenatal care.
- Do not drink, smoke or do drugs during or after pregnancy.
- Do not expose your baby to cigarette smoke.
- Breastfeed your baby for as long as possible.
- Give your baby a pacifier at naps and night time.
- Immunize your baby on the recommended schedule.
- Always put your baby to sleep on his back.
- Talk to grandparents and other childcare providers about how to keep your baby safe while she sleeps.
- Allow your baby tummy time while he is awake and supervised. This helps your baby develop muscle strength and control in his neck.
- Do not use sleep positioners or SIDS alarms. There should be nothing in the crib but your baby.
- Take you baby to the pediatrician for well child care visits.
About Dr. Denny
Sarah A. Denny, MD, is an attending physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the Emergency Department and Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She completed her residency in general pediatrics at University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is on the Executive Committee of the Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Co-Chair of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee for Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. Her interests include injury prevention, advocacy and patient education, specifically related to bicycle helmets, safe sleep and epipen use.