Good sleep habits are important for your baby’s physical health and emotional well-being. Safe sleep includes where your baby sleeps, their sleeping position, the type of crib or bed, the type of mattress, and the home environment.
Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby will lower the risk of injury and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is when a baby (less than one-year-old) seems healthy dies suddenly in their sleep, and the cause of death cannot be explained.
We don’t know what causes SIDS, so it cannot be prevented, but there are things you can do to help lower the risk.
- Safe sleep can help protect your baby from sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS) and other dangers, like choking and suffocation.
- Put your baby to sleep on his back on a flat, firm surface, like in a crib or bassinet. Do this every time your baby sleeps, including naps.
- Put your baby to sleep in his crib or bassinet. It’s good to share a room with your baby, but don’t share a bed.
- Don’t use sleep positioners, like nests or anti-roll pillows. They can cause your baby to stop breathing.
- Keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and other soft objects out of your baby’s crib.
FAQs About Baby Bed
Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress without pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or other items. Because of the risks involved, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warn against bed-sharing.
Research shows that a baby's health can improve when they sleep close to their parents. Babies that sleep with their parents have more regular heartbeats and breathing. They even sleep more soundly. And being close to parents is even shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Babies cool themselves down by releasing heat from their heads and faces. Babies can quickly overheat if they fall asleep wearing hats or beanies. So it's important to keep your baby's head uncovered during sleep. Headwear in bed can also be a choking or suffocation hazard.
Keep your baby's head uncovered – their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders. If wearing your baby in a sling or carrier, do not cover their head with the sling material or a muslin. Place your baby in the "feet to foot" position, with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket.
Two years old
Wait until they are 24 months old.
The recommended age for using a pillow is now two years old. Before then, there's a danger of suffocation due to the extra material in the bed. Your child's development will be a large factor in determining when they can use a pillow.
Keeping baby safe in their bed: 6 to 12 months
Help to keep your baby safe in bed by:
- Make sure that your baby is in their bed for every sleep.
- Make sure that your baby is on their back for every sleep.
- having a smokefree home and car
- breastfeeding your baby
- Immunising your baby on time.
Make every sleep a safe sleep.
Sudden unexpected death is a risk to babies until they are about 12 months old, but most deaths can be prevented. There are things that we can do to protect our babies.
Although for some babies, the cause of death is never found, most deaths happen when the babies are sleeping in an unsafe way.
Always follow these safe-sleep routines.
Make sure that your baby is safe.
To keep your baby safe while sleeping, make sure:
- they always sleep on their back to keep their airways clear
- they are in their cot or other baby bed
- they are put back in their bed after feeding – don’t fall asleep with them (to protect your back, feed your baby in a chair rather than in your bed)
- they have someone looking after them who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol or drugs
- they have clothing and bedding that keeps them at a comfortable temperature – one more layer of clothing than you would wear is enough; too many layers can make your baby hot and upset them
- They are in a room where the temperature is kept at 20°C.
You can check that your baby is warm but not too hot by feeling the back of their neck or their tummy (under the clothes). The baby should feel warm but not hot or cold. Your baby will be comfortable when their hands and feet are colder than their body.
If you are out somewhere, or if you are sleeping with your baby, make sure that they have their safe place to sleep. It is never safe to put your baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or a chair or in their car seat.
Make sure that your baby’s bed is safe.
Baby’s bed is safe when:
- it has a firm and flat mattress
- there are no gaps between the bed frame and the mattress
- There is nothing in the bed that might cover your baby’s face, lift their head or choke them.
Your baby may begin to roll over from their back to their front when they reach 5–6 months old. You don’t need to stop this happening, as long as their cot is free of things that might suffocate them, such as pillows, large soft toys and cot bumpers.
Make sure that your baby’s cot is put together correctly. The tops on the corner posts of wooden cots may need to be sawn off so your baby can’t hang themselves by their clothing.
The spaces between the cot bars must be between 50 mm and 95 mm – try to make the spaces closer to 50 mm if you can. If you have a cot with adjustable levels, make sure that you lower it before your baby can pull themselves up (at about 9–10 months).
The cords for blinds and curtains are a danger. Put the cot away from the window so your baby can’t reach them.
Car seats protect your baby when travelling in the car. Don’t use them as a baby bed.
How to choose a crib or bassinet
When prepping a baby's nursery, keep the following factors in mind.
- Footprint: A bassinet should have a wide, well-supported base so it won’t collapse or tip over.
- Weight limit: Some bassinets may have a weight limit as low as 15 pounds, though most can accommodate up to 20 pounds. If you don't have the bassinet manual handy, err on caution and move your baby to a crib when she's around 15 pounds. Most babies reach that weight by the time they’re 3 to 4 months old.
- Age: The CPSC says to steer clear of new and used cribs made before June 2011. Old, antique, or second-hand cribs could be broken or may not meet current safety standards. They may have lead paint, cracked or splintered wood, or slats too far apart.
- Slat width: The slats and corner posts of your crib should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart (about the width of a soda can) since wider slats can pose an entrapment risk for baby heads. Corner posts should be flush with the end panels (no more than 1/16 inch higher). If you’re buying a brand new crib, this likely isn’t something you need to worry about.
- Condition: If you’re buying a used crib, there should be no peeling paint or splintered or cracked wood.
And when it comes to assembling a baby’s sleep space, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to a T. Hardware including bolts, screws, and brackets should be firmly secured, with no sharp edges, rough areas or spots that could pinch or otherwise hurt your baby.
Crib mattress safety tips
Follow these safety tips when it comes to choosing your crib mattress:
- Crib mattresses should fit snugly. Make sure the mattress fits tightly and snugly against the inside of the crib. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib, it isn't up to safety standards. The harder it is for you to make the bed, the safer it is for your baby.
- Use a standard-size mattress for a full-size crib that is firm and at least 27 1/4 inches by 51 1/4 inches and no more than 6 inches thick. Oval- or round-shaped cribs need mattresses specially designed to fit in them snugly.
- For portable cribs and playards, use only the mattress that came with it. When these products are evaluated for safety, only with the mattresses, they’re sold with. Mattress toppers or thicker pads pose a suffocation risk.
When to lower the crib mattress
Many cribs have adjustable mattress heights designed to grow with your baby. Keep the mattress at the highest level when your little one is firstborn, when there’s no risk of her standing up and climbing out of the crib (and when you’ll be coming in to get her and put her back most often).
Once she’s able to sit up on her own (any time between 4 and 7 months) or pull herself up to a standing position, it’ll be time to lower the mattress so she can’t climb out.
Where should your baby sleep?
The safest place for your baby to sleep is by herself in a bassinet or crib. If you have multiples (twins, triplets or more), put each baby in his bassinet or crib. Here are some dos and don’ts about making your baby’s sleep space safe:
- Do put your baby to sleep on his back on a flat, firm surface, like a crib mattress covered with a tightly fitted sheet. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib, so there are no spaces between the bed and the frame. The mattress shape should stay firm even when covered with a tightly fitted sheet or mattress cover.
- Do put your baby to bed in his crib or bassinet. Don’t bed-share. This is when babies and parents sleep together in the same bed. Bed-sharing is the most common cause of death in babies younger than three months old. Keep your baby’s crib close to your bed so your baby’s nearby during the night. The American Academy of Pediatrics (also called AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life but at least for the first six months.
- Make sure your baby’s bassinet, crib or play yard meets current safety standards. Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to learn more about product safety standards or recalls.
- Do remove hanging window cords or electrical wires near where your baby sleeps. Babies can get tangled in them and choke.
- Do keep the room at a comfortable temperature. If your baby is sweating or his chest feels hot, he may be overheated.
- Don’t use sleep positioners. These sometimes are called nests or anti-roll pillows. They often are mats or wedges with pillows on either side to help keep your baby in place. The Food and Drug Administration (also called FDA) warns that sleep positioners can cause babies to die because of suffocation.
- Don’t let your baby sleep in a carrier, sling, car seat or stroller. Babies who sleep in these items can suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in one, take her out and put her in her crib as soon as you can.
- Don’t put your baby to sleep on soft surfaces, like a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or cushion.
- Don’t keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys or other soft objects in your baby’s crib. They put your baby in danger of being trapped, strangled or suffocated.
- Don’t use cribs with drop-side rails. Don’t put portable bed rails on a regular bed. Babies can get stuck in rails and choke. Don’t try to fix a crib that has broken or missing parts.
Five tips to protect your baby
Bringing home your baby for the first time is incredibly exciting, but for many, it can also be a daunting task.
Safe Kids Coordinator Inland Empire at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital reassures parents that learning how to keep their child safe will come over time.
“No parent has all the answers on their own,” Parker says. “Don’t be afraid to use online resources and reach out to experts when you have questions.”
She knows it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of information on baby safety, and she offers these five manageable tips on protecting your child.
Remove blankets and toys from your baby’s crib — a firm mattress and fitted sheet are all you need.
“Unfortunately, too many children under one die from unsafe sleeping conditions,” Parker says. “Following the ABCs of safe sleep can help decrease that risk.”
A – Alone: Babies should sleep alone in a safe sleep environment like a bassinet or crib — babies sleeping with others in a bed have been proven to increase chances of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS occurring due to unintentional suffocation from bedding or others in the bed blocking the baby’s airway.
However, a baby sleeping in a safe sleep space in the same room with a parent or parents decreases the risk of SIDS.
Babies should not sleep in car seats once removed from the car. Once the car seat is not in the car, it doesn’t achieve the same angle to protect the baby’s airway and keep it open.
B – Back: Babies need to sleep on their backs — this is the best way to protect their airways.
C – Crib: Babies sleeping in a crib, bassinet or portable crib meant for sleeping helps reduce the risk of SIDS. All sleep environments should have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet only. No blankets, toys, bumper pads, pillows or anything else should be inside the crib because they are a suffocation risk.
Learn to use your child’s car seat the correct way.
According to Parker, some car seat basics include:
- All children need to ride rear-facing until at least age two or older.
- The car seat should be rated for your child’s weight and height.
- Car seats should be installed tightly so they don’t move more than one inch back and forth or side-to-side when you tug moderately where the seat is buckled.
- The chest clip needs to be placed at armpit level, and harnesses need to be snug.
Register for our free car seat safety class to learn more.
Ensure you have both a working smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm on every level of your home and in all sleeping areas. Test the alarms to make sure they work.
“Most often, fires occur at night while people are sleeping,” Parker says. “Not having, disabling or having a dysfunctional smoke alarm can put your family in harm’s way.”
Additionally, Parker says to have a working carbon monoxide alarm.
“Carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless, so often people don’t know when they are being
poisoned,” she says. “Not having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can be deadly.”
Place your baby’s crib and other furniture away from windows and blinds — your baby is safer without any strings or cords within reach.
“Children of all ages are curious by nature,” Parker says. “Once they start to crawl and walk, they can find ways to explore their environments in ways we might not even imagine.”
Keeping furniture away from windows hinders toddlers from climbing up and leaning against windows and screens, both potentially creating the risk for a window fall, Parker says.
If window treatments or blinds have cords or strings, Parker advises parents to be sure they are safely wound in a child-proof device or tied up high and out of the child’s reach.
“Unsecured cords and strings have caused choking injuries and deaths, which are preventable,” she says.
Set your water heater to 120F to avoid scalds.
“As natural explorers, once children can reach faucets, they are often drawn to playing in the water,” Parker says. “If water heaters are set above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, children can be severely scalded. Also, remember to check the bathwater temperature before placing your baby into the bath.”
Whether you’re still pregnant and setting up your baby’s nursery or your little bundle has already arrived, you’re probably spending a lot of time thinking about how you’ll get your newborn to sleep.
Of course, you want your baby to sleep soundly. But it’s just as important that she sleeps safely. Smart, safe sleep practices can help protect infants from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related hazards, so every new parent needs to become familiar with safe sleep guidelines.
Don’t worry — they’re not complicated. When it comes to safe sleep for babies, simpler is often better. Here’s exactly what you need to know so that you and your baby can rest easy.