Most adults would never dream of sleeping without their favorite pillow and blanket, but such items put infants at increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This is especially true for infants less than 12 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1992 to educate parents that the safest way for infants to sleep is on their backs. Since this campaign, there has been a drastic decrease in SIDS related deaths. Unfortunately, other causes of sleep-related deaths have increased.
Therefore, the latest recommendations are that infants less than 12 months of age sleep on their backs on a firm mattress with no pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or bumper pads in their cribs. If you are concerned about keeping your baby warm on a cold night, it is recommended that they sleep in footed, well-fitted pajamas.
A safe sleep environment for infants excludes most of what we as adults associate with "soft and cuddly." An infant is not able to appreciate the cuddliness of a stuffed animal or soft blanket until they reach several developmental milestones, such as the ability to grab and hold tight to objects and bring them towards the body. These milestones are usually reached at the end of the first year of life.
AAP Guidelines for Safe Sleep
- The safest way for your infant to sleep is on his or her back, alone in a crib.
- The baby's crib should have a firm mattress, closely fitted to the sides of the crib and a tightly fitted sheet.
- Don't overdress or over bundle an infant. Overheating increases the risk of SIDS.
- Allow no covers near the baby's head.
- Use no pillows, bumpers or toys in the crib.
- Never let a baby fall asleep in a bed or chair with someone who is smoking, tired, ill or has taken medication that can cause drowsiness.
- A baby should sleep in a smoke-free home. Cigarette smoke exposure increases the risks of SIDS.
To read the AAP’s Parents Guide to Safe Sleep, click here.