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Nine Ways to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is scary to think about! It may even cause you to spend a lot of time hovering around your baby’s sleep environment during her first few weeks at home. While experts don’t know all the causes of SIDS, they do know that it’s rare — and that there are plenty of things parents can do to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Here’s what you need to know:

Baby sleeping safety1. Precaution starts during pregnancy. Give your baby a head start by getting proper prenatal care. It’s also essential to refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, or spending time in smoky environments.

2. Place your baby to sleep on her back. Whether it’s naptime or nighttime, babies under 1 year should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. The exception: If she rolls onto her side or stomach, it’s OK to leave her like that. She probably has the ability to roll herself back.

3. Place your baby on a firm sleep surface. Your baby’s crib should meet current sleep safety standards (find out more at – new crib safety standards were introduced in 2011) and her mattress should be covered with a fitted sheet.

4. No extras in the crib. That means no stuffed animals, loose bedding, pillows, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters, or any other objects that could potentially suffocate your baby while she sleeps.

5. Sleep near your baby. Keep her crib or bassinet within arm’s reach. But don’t let her sleep in your bed, which can actually increase the risk of SIDS.

6. Breastfeed and immunize. Doing both can reduce the risk of SIDS, according to research.

7. Keep your baby cool. Signs your baby might be too hot include sweating or a hot chest or forehead. As a rule of thumb, you only need to dress her in one more layer than you would wear to keep warm.

8. Offer a pacifier. Pacifiers given during sleep or naptime may reduce the risk of SIDS. But if your baby isn’t interested, that’s okay — you don’t have to force it.

9. Avoid SIDS-reducing products. Despite what the package’s label might say, wedges, special mattresses, and sleep positioners have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. In fact, they could cause suffocation.

At What Age is it Safe for Your Child to Sleep With a Pillow?

sleeping child - sweet dreamsDuring your baby’s first year, you were probably told to steer clear of putting anything soft and fluffy in his crib — and for good reason. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death for infants between the ages of 1 and 12 months from soft objects and loose bedding in their cribs. Any clutter at all is generally considered a hazard when it’s in a baby’s crib.

For children under 18 months, a pillow can easily block their nose and mouth, causing suffocation. But once your child is over 18 months old, at around the time he can safely be moved into a toddler bed, you can also start to safely introduce pillows into his sleep routine. He’ll have a favorite in no time!

Until your child is over 18 months, it’s best to keep all blankets, pillows, toys, and comforters out of his sleeping area and away from his reach.


Editor’s Note:  Just a reminder  – since every child’s needs are different it’s always a good idea to check with your child’s pediatrician before making significant changes to his or her environment.

Is Your Baby Sleeping Safely?

On her back - no bumpersWhen it comes to taking care of your newborn, most things are instinctual. Feed, burp, change diapers and, of course, put the baby down for naps. Lots of them. But what may seem like a no-brainer — your baby sleeping in her crib — actually requires some forethought and safety education.

“There’s a short list of things all new parents should know,” says Michael Goodstein, M.D., F.A.A.P., attending neonatologist at York Hospital in York, Penn., and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics SIDS task force. At the top of that list: “Babies should be put on their backs to sleep to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.” SIDS is the leading cause of death in children younger than the age of 1; it’s most common in infants between 2 and 4 months of age.

Goodstein also recommends the following baby sleeping practices, endorsed by the AAP:

  • Place baby to sleep on her back on a firm, solid surface such as a crib mattress or play yard mat with a well-fitting sheet.
  • Avoid the use of pillows, loose bedding (blankets and sheets), crib bumpers, sleep positioners and stuffed animals for the first year of life.
  • Place the baby’s crib or bassinet in your bedroom within arm’s reach of your bed. Co-sleeping with your baby in your bed is not recommended. “Babies can be brought into bed for cuddling and feeding, but not sleep time,” says Goodstein.
  • Baby should always sleep in a smoke-free environment.
  • Do not place blankets or sheets over baby’s head, and do not over-bundle her with bedding or clothing. Overheating can be dangerous; signs include flushed cheeks, sweating, damp hair and rapid breathing. Make sure the room temperature is comfortable for a lightly dressed adult.
  • Give your baby tummy time while she’s awake.

When it’s time to register for your baby shower or when you’re out shopping for the nursery, remember to choose goods that help facilitate safe sleep practices. A few of my favorite baby sleeping products:

  1. Skip Hop Complete Sheet Bumper-Free Bedding comes in adorable patterns and gives you the style of a crib bumper without having to use one. Brilliant. (Bonus: A wearable blanket is included in the set!) $120/4-piece set
  2. Halo 100 Percent Organic Cotton SleepSack Swaddle makes swaddling simple and gives you the option of keeping arms in or out. $35 each
  3. Arm’s Reach Co-Sleepers are bassinets with a unique feature: an open side and fastening system that lets you secure it to the side of your bed. Many styles are available; the Mini is perfect for travel. $139 and up 
  4. Naturepedic No-Compromise Organic Cotton Lightweight Baby Crib & Toddler Mattress features hypoallergenic fabric and a waterproof surface. But best of all, it eliminates concerns over toxic fire-retardant chemicals by providing naturally derived fire resistance made from cellulose, baking soda and hydrated silica. $259

BreathableBaby Mesh Crib Bumpers

For more than ten years, parenting experts, child product safety organizations, and new parents have been talking about the potential safety hazards of using traditional crib bumpers inside infants’ cribs despite the benefits of preventing head, arm and leg injuries.

We are Dale and Susan Waters, married entrepreneurs from Minnesota who turned fear for our baby’s safety inside her crib into a mission to create something that would not only help protect babies but also provide peace of mind for parents. We invented the Breathable Mesh Crib Bumper; a product designed to reduce the risks of suffocation caused by traditional bumpers, while protecting a baby’s limbs from becoming entrapped in the crib slats.

BreathableBaby is Born

12 years ago, we woke to the sound of our 3-month-old daughter screaming in agony from her crib. Our daughter, Sierra had gotten her legs twisted and wedged between the slats of her crib. Her face was pinned against the mattress.

There were many sleepless nights for us and our daughter – no matter what we tried she kept getting her little arms and legs caught between the crib slats. In addition to the obvious pain of being stuck, we feared she would break an arm or leg, or develop neuropathy. But we refused to use a soft, pillowy crib bumper for fear of suffocation.

Research shows that a baby can snuggle up right against their crib bumper. If the baby’s nose and mouth are too close to the bumper, it can potentially cause dangerous re-breathing of carbon dioxide or suffocation. A baby can also get wedged between crib slats and the mattress, unable to escape and possibly suffocate. Because the safety and potential dangers of crib bumpers has been in the news recently, many parents are unsure about how to keep their babies comfortable and safe.

As parents, we were frustrated and upset to learn there was no practical solution available in the marketplace. As designers and entrepreneurs we decided we had to do something about it and devoted ourselves to developing a safer, “breathable” solution – preferably one that was affordable and easy to use. So, we took a break from the media, marketing and music company we owned, and focused on creating a safer solution for babies.

We researched and sourced fabrics, designed and engineered prototypes, held focus groups with mothers and sought extensive third party safety evaluations by a world-leader in safety consultation before finally introducing a safer, smarter crib bumper to the market three years later in 2002.

What makes BreathableBaby bumpers so much safer is our Air Channel Technology™ (A.C.T.) designed to prevent suffocation. A.C.T. maintains air access should a baby’s mouth and nose press up against the fabric. When the BreathableBaby fabric is compressed it is virtually impossible to form an airtight seal. In fact BreathableBaby has “fabric cards” available so that parents can experience the A.C.T. safety feature for themselves — just send in a request along with your address information to and we’ll send you one free of charge.

Since its launch, we’re proud to say that the BreathableBaby™ brand has forged a new category in “breathable” bedding, and is embraced by parents worldwide. Our products have won numerous awards including The Child Safety House Calls Award of Excellence, and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval for innovation, functionality, design and contribution to creating a safer, healthier crib environment.

It’s imperative that parents are aware of the potential dangers that may be part of a baby’s sleep environment. New information is available all the time, so we urge all expectant parents – first time or otherwise – to seek relevant news, alerts, studies and guidelines from news and safety organizations such as the ones listed in our Healthful Hints below.

Wishing you and your little one sweet dreams.


Six Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment For Your Baby

  1. Crib Mattress Should be Firm. A soft mattress may increase suffocation risks. Select a firm mattress that fits the crib tightly and a fitted sheet. You should have a fitted not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. Before purchasing a crib, visit to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.
  2. No Blankets for Baby. Do not place anything in baby’s crib that could be a suffocation hazard, including blankets. If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, a better solution is an infant sleeper or wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can’t ride up over her face.
  3. Breathable Mesh Crib Bumpers. Crib bumpers that are plush, pillowy, and made of non-breathable fabric can increase the risk of suffocation. A safer crib bumper option is one that is mesh or breathable and allows for air flow – even when pressed against a baby’s mouth.
  4. De-Clutter the Crib. For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks. Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time.
  5. A bottle. Parents of older infants who have started holding their own bottles may be tempted to slip a bottle into the crib in case their baby wakes at night. But even a bottle can pose a suffocation risk. Plus, babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths are prone to tooth decay from the milk sugars that sit on their teeth all night.
  6. Pacifiers. Some studies have shown that giving your baby a clean, dry pacifier reduces SIDS rates.

Resources For More Information On Safe Sleep and Crib Safety

Co-sleeping and the Older Child – A Family Controversy

We’ve had an ongoing controversy in our family the past few years….all about “sleepovers”. In our house “sleepovers” have been defined not as kids in sleeping bags, junk food, and late night silliness, but as an occasional night in bed with either mom or dad – though usually with mom. Our son has always had challenges going to sleep and staying asleep – and really likes company….human company. So an occasional parental “sleepover” is a real treat for him.

So where is the controversy? Although our sleepovers are totally innocent and just give the opportunity for extra time together – including chats, silliness and cuddles – there’s frequently a negative view in the US about kids sleeping with their parents – also known as “co-sleeping”. At a minimum people generally have strong opinions on the subject. My husband frowned on this occasional sleeping arrangement, seeing it as undermining our son’s independence – especially given that he turned 9 this year. And a couple of psychologists I know said that co-sleeping, particularly with one parent, could affect his emotional development.

Why did we do “sleepovers”? My work over the past 5 years was very intense and involved significant overseas travel. So every few weeks I would be gone for a week or two – and when I got back I would be jet-lagged. My son missed me and I missed him – but I didn’t always have the energy or the patience to really be there for him when I got home. So sleepovers were a way for us to get more time together – either before or after a trip. And we had developed some fun rituals for the events – like staging a stuffed animal fight (think snowball fight – but with stuffed animals), drinking hot cocoa before bed, and him telling me original stories as I rubbed his back and head. The arrangement also meant I could just settle in for the night and get a good sleep uninterrupted by his frequent night-time visits. Plus don’t underestimate the power of the mommy guilt when he said he missed me and begged for a sleepover.

What are the potential issues? Most co-sleeping literature focuses on infants – and in this situation the biggest concern is safety; generally regarding suffocation from bedclothes or a parent or sibling rolling onto the baby. In fact, both the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warn against having infants sleep in adult beds. But co-sleeping advocates, such as Dr. William Sears, say these warnings go too far – that with proper consideration for safety, the benefits of the family bed outweigh any risks (click here for a good article about co-sleeping risks and rewards – also see these articles for a perspective from Confessions of a Dr. Mom).

As children age, concern shifts to the development of their independence – will they be too clingy with parents or not be able to eventually transition to sleeping on their own? Psychologists also highlight potential effects on emotional and gender-role development from blurred child-parent boundaries and seeming to come between the mother and father when co-sleeping with just one parent. Finally, issues can be more about the parents – the desire for privacy or couple time – or opposing views on co-sleeping, which can create marital discord.

Different perspectives. Given what I’d been told about the potential negatives, I became worried that we’d done this so long. However, in researching the issue I’ve learned that other cultures see things differently. A friend in England with twin 7-year old girls has regular pint-sized bed-mates and was horrified to hear that I’d been counseled against a bonding opportunity with my son. And I spoke with a colleague from Asia who slept in the parental bed most of the time through age 12. In fact, co-sleeping, even at older ages, is quite common in other parts of the world. This was borne out by a 2006 study in Singapore where over 70% of the children participating slept with parents or another adult. While the co-sleeping children were younger than those who slept alone, the mean age of the co-sleepers was nine years.  Even here in the US views are shifting, though many proponents of co-sleeping aren’t comfortable admitting the practice – even to close friends and family. A lot of advice on the topic concludes with the recommendation to do what feels right for your family.

So what did we decide? We didn’t eliminate “sleepovers” entirely – but we have scaled them back considerably, using the occasion of our son’s ninth birthday as the trigger (”you’re getting too old for so many sleepovers”). The practice was becoming too much a norm or expectation for the little guy – and I realized that I was also doing it for my own needs. But I feel reassured from what I’ve read that it hasn’t created an issue for him. He’s extremely independent – able to handle away-camp and visits on his own to grandparents; he only wants hugs and cuddles from mom in private (“no hugs or kisses in front of my friends Mom!!”), and is exhibiting a healthy developing curiosity about girls and relationships.  And he’s much better now about sleeping on his own through the night.  Who knows, maybe our past co-sleeping helped him better deal with his sleep challenges.  Either way, I”m just glad we’re all getting a decent night’s sleep!

What are your family’s sleeping arrangements? Do you admit to co-sleeping or a family bed?

New Campaign on Crib Safety for New and Expecting Parents

We all know that new parents cannot leave a hospital with a newborn baby unless they have a safe car seat. As of this week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Sleep safethe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Keeping Babies Safe (KBS) and NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital are collaborating to educate new and expectant parents and caregivers on crib safety before they leave the hospital or after when they are visiting their pediatrician’s office. A new video called “Safe Sleep for Babies” demonstrates how to avoid suffocation, strangulation and entrapment in cribs, bassinets and play yards.

According to the CPSC press release:  “This education effort is part of CPSC’s Safe Sleep Initiative, a multi-pronged effort aimed at reducing deaths and injuries associated with unsafe sleep environments. In addition to this education effort, CPSC’s Safe Sleep Initiative includes the development of new crib standards, warnings about drop-side cribs, sleep positioners, and infant slings, and the recall of millions of cribs in the past five years.”

In order to create a safe sleep environment for your baby, the video urges parents and caregivers to follow these crib safety tips below:

  • Place infants to sleep on their backs
  • Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress
  • Never use extra padding, blankets or pillows under baby
  • Remove pillows or thick comforters
  • Do not use positioning devices – they are not necessary and can be deadly
  • Regularly check cribs for loose, missing or broken parts or slats
  • Do not try to fix a broken crib
  • Place cribs or playpens away from windows and window covering cords to avoid fall and strangulation hazards
  • Place baby monitor cords away from cribs or playpens to avoid strangulation

The “safe sleep” video will be distributed to hospitals nationwide and can also be viewed online.

For additional information on drop-side crib recalls, please go to

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