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The Safest Place for Newborns to Sleep

by Stacey Chaloux

Bringing your newborn home for the first time can be a joyous occasion, but it can also be a time that new parents often worry. Parents want to ensure that their baby is safe and some might wonder how and where they should put the baby to sleep. Because the average newborn will spend a majority of his day sleeping -- at least 16 hours a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics -- it is important to have a safe place for him to do so and to put him in the correct position.

Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends always putting your newborn on his back when he is sleeping. This will ensure that his mouth and nose are not blocked so he can breathe easier, reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or suffocation. Babies will learn soon enough to roll over from their back onto their tummies or sides, and might do so while they are sleeping. While you should always place your baby on his back when you put him to sleep, if he is able to roll over on his own, you don't need to worry about changing his position if he rolls over while sleeping. Also, ensure that you are giving your baby plenty of time to play on his tummy while he is awake during the day so he can begin to develop the muscles he will need to hold his head up.

A Safe Crib

Whether your baby is sleeping in a crib or a bassinet, the AAP recommends that it have a firm surface and that you cover it with a tightly fitted sheet. Do not put your baby to sleep on a soft surface such as a sofa cushion or a water bed. If he falls asleep in a car seat or swing, move him to a firm surface as soon as possible. Don't allow soft objects such as stuffed animals, pillows or bumper pads in the crib because they pose a risk to newborns if their face becomes covered. Instead of covering him with a blanket, consider using a blanket sleeper for warmth. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also recommends using cribs that are less than 10 years old, have not been recalled and are properly assembled according to the manufacturer's instructions. It shouldn't have any gaps larger than two fingers wide between the mattress and the side of the crib or have loose or broken slats that your baby could slip through.

Sharing a Room

Parents often want their newborns close while they sleep, but the AAP does not recommend having your baby sleep in the same bed with you. This can put them in danger of suffocation or having a parent roll on them while asleep. The AAP does suggest having the baby in his own bassinet or crib in the same room with you, at least for the first few months of his life. If you bring your baby to your bed for feeding, you should be wide awake and return the baby to his own bed when he is done eating. Also, your room needs to be a comfortable temperature so baby does not get overheated or cold.

Putting Concerns to Rest

Some parents have concerns with putting their babies to sleep on their backs, but the AAP says that many of these fears are unnecessary. Parents might worry that their baby will spit up or vomit while on his back, causing him to choke, but several studies have shown that healthy babies will turn their heads when they spit up. Some parents also worry that their baby will get a flat head from lying on his back so much, but the AAP suggests alternating the direction your baby faces each time you lay him down. Also, have your baby spend plenty of time in other positions while he is awake, such as on his tummy.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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