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.

1. 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 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.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Baby Sleep Solutions: 0 to 3 Months

Your newborn’s sleeping and waking cycles can be unpredictable. During the first three months of your baby’s life, it’s best to accept the fact that you’ll be getting very little shut-eye. But know that soon enough, your baby will settle into a sleeping routine that’s more manageable for the whole family. For now, check out some baby sleep solutions to help you manage the early months while setting your child up for sleep success in the future.

1. Master the signs of sleepiness
During his first month, your baby will probably sleep at least 16 hours a day. After about 4 to 6 weeks, you might start to notice a pattern in his sleep, and you’ll be able to better anticipate when he needs to nap -- usually, a few times a day. However, his timing won’t be consistent yet, so be alert for signs that he’s getting sleepy, such as fussing or crying, rubbing his eyes, or staring off into space.

2. Avoid day and night reversal
A common newborn sleep issue is mixing up days and nights. This happens when your baby gets the bulk of her sleep during the day and then wants to stay up longer at night (and play) while everyone else is trying to snooze. There’s no overnight fix for this, but you can help get your baby back on track sooner by clearly differentiating night from day. Encourage wakefulness during the day by keeping the shades open to allow bright light in. Then, during the evening, use a soft, calm voice and keep the lights dimmed.

3. Start a bedtime routine
By the time your baby is about 6 weeks old, you can establish a consistent and calming bedtime ritual. Keep it simple, short, and sweet. Read and sing to your baby, feed him, and gently rock him. After the first month, try to move him to his crib -- instead of letting him fall asleep in your arms -- while he’s sleepy but still awake so he can get accustomed to falling asleep in his own bed.

4. Consider baby sleep safety
The greatest risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) occurs in the first few months of life. You can help reduce this risk by making sure your baby is always placed on his back to sleep and that he sleeps on a firm mattress -- either in a crib or bedside bassinet. Because blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals can pose a suffocation risk, keep them and other soft objects out of the crib. Also avoid using crib bumpers.

Remember: Your sleep is just as important as your child’s! A good rule of thumb is to nap when your baby naps. This way, you’ll both wake up refreshed and ready to go.

No-Stress Ways to Get Your Toddler to Bed

By the end of the day, you’re wiped out. But your energetic toddler is still up and about -- and fighting your every attempt at getting him to sleep.

It’s not unusual for toddlers to resist bedtime. But good sleep is essential to your toddler’s health, not to mention your sanity. It’s up to you to help him develop the healthy sleep habits he’ll need for the rest of his life. Here’s what to do.

Create a routine
Start each night with a relaxing routine that will set the stage for going to sleep. Changing into pajamas, brushing your child’s teeth, and washing his face every night will help establish that these are the things that happen before bedtime. Other ways to relax include listening to quiet music, reading a book, or giving him a bath. Resist the urge to play with your toddler at this hour, since it will only get him more excited than relaxed.

Be consistent
Stick with the same routine every night, so your toddler learns to expect that bedtime is coming. Soon he’ll know what’s expected of him, too.

Make it comfortable
Let your child take his beloved teddy bear to bed with him. Give him his favorite blanket, and allow him a drink of water. Turn on a nightlight before closing the door. Taking care of your toddler’s comforts will make it easier for him to relax -- and give him fewer excuses for climbing out of bed again.

Pause before answering every call
Children this age are likely to call out to you after you leave the room. Resist the urge to respond every time your toddler calls for you, and wait several seconds before answering. With each time he calls for you, wait a few seconds longer, which will give him the chance to fall asleep before you respond. When you do, remind him that it’s bedtime. If you go into his room, don’t turn on the light or stay too long. Engaging your toddler more than necessary will only wake him up more. As much as possible, stay farther away from his bed each time you go in.

Be patient
Teaching a toddler good sleep habits doesn’t happen overnight. And it isn’t easy, since toddlers love your companionship. But keep doing the same thing every night. Eventually, your toddler will learn to go along with the plan and get the most out of this good night’s sleep.

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

Common Baby Sleep Concerns: 4 to 6 Months

Good news for sleep-deprived new moms: Now that your baby is a few months old, he’s starting to develop regular sleep patterns that will help you both get more shut-eye. Babies this age need about 14 hours of sleep within each 24-hour period. You’ll probably find that it’s broken down into at least two (if not three) naps a day, plus seven or eight hours of sleep at night. Ensure that your baby sleep routine goes as smoothly as possible by keeping these tips in mind.

Establish a bedtime routine
If you haven’t already, start a calming bedtime routine to encourage blissful baby sleep. Have a set bedtime and keep the routine simple and relatively short. Some tried-and-true activities to consider: giving a bath, singing lullabies, reading a book, or rocking in a chair together. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent by performing the same activities in the same order each night. This will help set your baby up for a successful night’s sleep.

Readjust your feeding times
After four months, your formula-fed baby does not need to be fed more than four times a day, and breast-fed babies only need about five or six nursing sessions a day. Now that your child requires fewer meals, it’s a good time to start eliminating middle-of-the-night feedings. Transition your routine so the last bottle or nursing session is right before you go to sleep. Your baby may still cry out in the middle of the night, but at this age, you can comfort him with soothing words or a quick lullaby instead of a feeding.

Keep baby safe from SIDS
At this age, the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is decreasing, but it’s still a must to put your baby down to sleep on his back and keep any soft objects (e.g., pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals) out of the crib. However, by 6 months, many babies are starting to learn how to roll over from their backs to their stomachs. If your baby is rolling over in the middle of the night, don’t worry: There’s no need to reposition him while he is sleeping.

You and your baby are probably both getting more sleep during the night, but hiccups are to be expected. If you do have any baby sleep disturbances, be sure to stick to your routine … and keep your fingers crossed that the following night will be more restful!

Photo by Felipe Salgado on Unsplash

Ultimate Baby Sleep Solution: A Bedtime Routine

Imagine you are at a fancy restaurant having a great time with your best friends. You’re about to tell a funny joke when, without any warning, you’re yanked away from the party and dropped into bed. It would be hard to fall asleep, right? Heck, you’d probably want to cry! This is exactly how your baby feels without a bedtime routine: confused, grumpy, and a little stunned.

A bedtime routine gives your baby a heads-up that it’s time to wind down. The process also minimizes crying, making bedtime a wonderful bonding opportunity instead of a fight. And as sleep-deprived parents everywhere can affirm, there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a soundly sleeping baby (and a chance for some precious grown-up time!). 

Be consistent …
Reading a book or taking a bath is relaxing no matter your age, but it’s not necessarily the story or the bubbles that help you fall asleep. The most important part of a baby bedtime routine is its consistency. If you follow a specific pattern -- whether it’s singing a song, giving your baby a gentle massage, or slow dancing to soft music in a dark room -- your baby will start to expect what’s coming up (sleep!).

… but don’t be too consistent!
If you’ve ever gone on vacation and forgotten to bring your baby’s special teddy bear (oh, the horror!), you know that flexibility is a crucial part of peaceful baby sleep. Encourage your baby to be adaptable by tweaking the routine ever so slightly now and then. If your baby enjoys white noise, switch between a fan and a noise machine. If your baby usually sleeps in footed pajamas, try a sleep sack once or twice a week.

Bedtime cuddles are one of the sweetest parts of parenting, but all moms can use a break once in a while. Here’s a great reason to have the other parent, a grandparent, or a babysitter occasionally put your baby to sleep: If your baby gets accustomed to you always doing it, she may struggle to fall asleep when anyone else attempts the bedtime routine. So kick back on the couch and let someone else put your baby down every now and then -- it will pay off in the future.

Keep it short and sweet
Your baby’s bedtime routine doesn’t need to be a complicated dance that leaves you exhausted. Try 10 to 15 minutes of reading books, singing lullabies, or playing quietly in a dim room. Signal with your tone and mannerisms that it’s getting close to bedtime -- speak softly and give a few big yawns. (You may not even have to fake them!)

Then change your baby’s diaper, offer a bottle or your breast, brush her teeth or gums, and put her in comfy pajamas. Lots of moms have success with swaddling, which makes newborns feel extra secure; plus, they look pretty darn cute wrapped up like a baby burrito!

Try putting your baby to sleep when she is drowsy, not already wiped out in your arms. If she wakes up in the middle of the night and is no longer with you, your baby may become confused and struggle to go back to sleep without you.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash