The scariest part of bringing your baby home is the car ride home. Then once you make it successfully there and everyone collectively breathes a sigh of relief, nighttime rolls around, and panic sets in again—safe sleep, SIDS, co-sleep or not to co-sleep. There are too many options, and even more scary information is available! While every mom and parent needs to decide what will work best for their baby and their household, below are some broader tips on sleep and safe sleep positions for a new baby.
Safe Sleep for Baby
Before we talk about safe sleep positions, I want to touch on dressing your baby for sleeping. Experts recommend dressing a baby in what you would be comfortable in, plus one layer.1 For example, footed pajamas and a sleep sack or a swaddle are good options for that extra layer. A swaddle or a tight sleepsack is the most common practice for babies. Newborns prefer the snug, tight fit that prevents them from startling themselves awake when they have jerk muscle movements while sleeping. Sleepsacks for infants use zippers or Velcro to keep it in place instead of just using a blanket to swaddle. As the baby gets bigger in size and stronger in their movements, swaddle blankets are easier for them to bust out of and could ultimately get tangled up in. This is why sleep sacks or wearable blankets are great options.
Where Should Baby Sleep?
Next, decide where the baby will do most of their nighttime sleep. This is important in the success of your baby’s sleeping patterns. If you prefer them to be in bed with you or next to your bed, find the right co-sleeper in advance. If you ultimately plan on the baby sleeping in their own room eventually, have their crib set up ahead of time. I recommend using it for most of their naps throughout the day, so they get comfortable with it.
Once you know where your baby is going to sleep and what they will sleep in, consider what they are going to sleep on. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the crib mattress to be firm with only a tight fitted sheet around it.2 Avoid thick comforters, quilts, loose blankets, and stuffed animals in the crib with the baby.
Safe Sleep Positions for Baby
Back sleeping is the most recommended sleep position for babies. It has the least amount of risk related to SIDS. However, there are cases where medical conditions accept tummy sleeping and side sleeping—for example, severe acid reflux or certain upper-airway malformations like Pierre Robin Syndrome. Pierre Robin Syndrome can lead to acute airway obstruction episodes. And some parents of colicky babies have been recommended to place their babies on their tummies to relieve them of gas pressure. This is not, however, recommended for nighttime sleeping.
When Can Baby Sleep on His Tummy?
One of the most popular sleep questions is when can my baby sleep on his tummy? The answer is once your baby is rolling from back to belly. This reduces the risk of SIDS dramatically. As long as they know how to turn their head and there aren’t any loose blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals around them, it is okay to leave your baby on his or her belly if she rolls over in her sleep. However, starting them on their back is recommended.
While safe sleep can be a big scary topic, taking time to work on your baby’s neck strength, like doing tummy time, can help reduce the risk of SIDS.3 When they start rolling over on their own and getting into their own comfortable position, it’s a lot easier to relax during sleeping hours. And if it brings you comfort, there are several sleeping monitors on the market that alert you if the baby’s breathing becomes abnormal. However, there has been little research as to whether these monitors actually help or not.
Ultimately . . .
Every baby has preferences in their sleep positions, locations, and what they wear to sleep. Keep a close eye on your baby. You’ll learn a lot through observing them. You’ll see when and what they are ready for. This will help you determine what will work best for you and your family. Personally, my babies loved to be on their bellies. They slept much better that way. I carefully considered the risks and did research on my own. I talked with trusted doctors, a sleep consultant, and other moms. We slowly worked them into belly sleepers through a lot of supervision.