I can't count the number of movies and commercials I have seen that show sleeping infants with pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals surrounding them in the crib. How many advertisements show the perfect crib bedding set with bumpers on the crib? We are constantly shown images of sleeping babies in an unsafe environment. Parents and caregivers don't know what they don't know, which is why I have chosen this very important topic for my first post.
You have likely heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. SIDS is an unexplained death of an otherwise heathy infant under 12 months old. Many times the death happens during sleep. There are steps that you can take as they relate to sleep to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS.
Over the past few decades there has been a significant decrease in SIDS due to the Back to Sleep Campaign. Always place your baby to sleep on her back. Placing your baby on her back to sleep greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. "But my baby hates laying on her back!" Yes, it is true that babies tend to fuss (okay...scream!) when placed on their back. However, you are the parent, and you know that placing your baby on her back to sleep is what is best for her.
Let's talk bedding. If your baby is under 12 months of age, he/she should be sleeping on a firm surface with nothing but a fitted sheet. That's it. No bumpers. No pillows. No blankets. Just a crib mattress with a fitted sheet. "But my perfect bedding set came with the most adorable bumpers!" Sure the bumpers look cute, but bumpers, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. all increase the risk for suffocation and strangulation. "But won't they get stuck in the crib?" It is possible that your baby might get an arm or a leg out of the slats of the crib, but they are going to be okay. The bumpers pose much more of a hazard than getting an arm stuck in the slats. After 12 months of age your baby is no longer at risk for SIDS and it is safe to give them a blanket or a stuffed animal. However, I caution you from giving them too many things in the crib because eventually they may use them to launch themselves out!
How should you dress your baby for sleep? Do not overdress your baby. Keep the room cool. Footed pajamas that are close fitting to the body are great for baby to sleep in. They come in sizes from newborn to 5T. If you feel like baby needs an extra layer, you can put them in a sleep sack. A sleep sack is essentially a wearable blanket. It allows you to give your baby some extra warmth while keeping them safe. Swaddling is safe until your baby learns to turn over. If your baby is able to turn over, it is time to take away the swaddle.
Please know that these are the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and they are the recommendations because they have been found to be the safest sleeping environment for your baby. There are too many stories in the news of well meaning parents or caregivers using props or blankets to "help" baby sleep that end in tragedy. Given the opportunity, your baby is able to learn how to sleep in the environment you have set up for her. Make it a safe one so you can sleep peacefully at night! If you want more information about safe sleep, the AAP runs the site healthychildren.org. It has a wealth of information on various topics, including safe sleep.