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Published on December 11, 2014

Help Your Infant Sleep Safely

You fill your bed with blankets, pillows and quilts, making it oh-so-cozy and warm. So, with the best intentions in mind, some parents might do the same thing for their infants’ cribs. However, all of this plush, soft bedding is downright dangerous for an infant.

“There's no place for those things in a newborn’s crib… the baby can get tangled in them, they cannot remove or move themselves into a safe position. You just don't need any of that stuff,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, the chairman of Abington’s Pediatrics Department.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents keep soft objects and loose bedding away from infants because they can inadvertently lead to suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the leading cause of death for infants 1 month to 1 year old. SIDS is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby that is less than a year old, usually during sleep.

Despite these warnings, a new study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, states that about half of infants in the U.S. are still being placed to sleep with potentially hazardous bedding.

“Blankets, stuffed animals, bumper pads – they just don't belong; they're all safety risks. Not health risks, safety risks,” Dr. Shapiro emphasized.

Researchers reported that the use of this type of bedding was highest among infants who were sleeping in adult beds, placed to sleep on their sides or on a shared sleep surface.

“Co-sleeping can be incredibly dangerous,” he said, stating that there’s a potential for what is called overlay if a parent falls asleep next to their baby. “A parent’s arm over the baby's chest or if the baby falls asleep cradled in your arms, that baby can get under your arm and get stuck.” Overlay, he said, can cause the infant to have difficulty breathing and can even lead to suffocation.

In addition to overlay, a parent’s bed typically has soft blankets, quilts and pillows, all of which pose a risk of suffocation for an infant.

“There is nothing to be gained from co-sleeping. It is not safe, it is not recommended,” Dr. Shapiro cautioned.

To ensure your infant sleeps safe and sound, you should place your baby to sleep on his or her back.

“There is no substitute, the back is best,” Dr. Shapiro stated.

You should also keep the crib as bare as possible with a firm mattress – don’t place your baby on a thick, fluffy padding to sleep.

“Don't be caught up in the desire to make the baby's room look good. As your baby grows, you can put safe mobiles up for stimulation, music boxes and safe devices, but at the very beginning, less is more. A baby needs a very sparse, clean space, a crib with stable sides and a firm mattress,” he said.

If you’re concerned that your baby will be cold while sleeping, try dressing him or her in a sleep sack.

“There’s no need for blankets. Sleep sacks are very safe and won’t compromise a baby's ability to move or breathe,” Dr. Shapiro said.

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