You’ve probably heard that “back is best” and bumpers are better left out of cribs. But according to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, many parents don’t follow safe sleep recommendations — especially in the middle of the night. Even when advised of the risks and knowing they were being videotaped, parents put their children to sleep in a non-recommended way. We all want what’s best for our babies, but we’re also all exhausted. Here, we’ve got a reminder of the basics for safe baby sleep, and a couple of ideas for how to keep up your resolve when all you want is for the kid to sleep for five more minutes.
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photo: Caitlin Regan via flickr
Back to Sleep
Place babies to sleep on their backs. Yes, you went to sleep on your stomach, and you survived (or so Mom tells you), but the best research we have available says back is best. Make sure any babysitters know to place your little one on their back to go to sleep. When baby can roll over by herself, put her on her back to start, and stop swaddling.
Babies should sleep on a flat, firm mattress. Cribs and other sleeping environments like bassinets should be kept free of stuffed toys, pillows, loose blankets and bumpers. Those bumpers that get handed down might be cute, but keep them for the doll crib. They aren’t safe. Sleep experts say that just because products are sold in stores doesn’t mean that they’re safe for your little one, surprisingly, and hand-me-downs may have been recalled or no longer recommended for use.
Sleeping with baby
Talk to your pediatrician if you’re planning on co-sleeping. In the AAP safe sleep study, bringing your baby to bed in the middle of the night was very common, and often done without letting the other parent know Baby is there, and without having a safe sleeping environment prepared.
Sleeping with baby on a couch is especially dangerous according to studies, so make a plan on how to stay awake during late-night feeding sessions (Netflix and nurse, anyone?). Yes, it’s cute when Baby and Dad fall asleep together, but give Dad a nudge to wake him up, or pick up your baby gently and put him down in a safe place.
The takeaway? Parents are tired, and they want their babies to sleep. Parents are much more likely to put their children to sleep in their own beds, or on their stomachs, after getting up with the baby at least once. We get that! Sleep deprivation does not make for rational decision-making at 2 a.m. What can you do?
Make it easy on yourself and baby. Consider keeping a safe sleep environment in your bedroom where you can feed, change and check on your bundle as needed during the night without too much fuss and hassle.
Get as much rest as possible. If you take naps during the day, you’re less likely to be exhausted at night. We roll our eyes sometimes at “sleep when the baby sleeps,” especially when you have older kids, but instituting a personal naptime is not out of line.
Don’t be afraid to move baby after they’ve fallen asleep somewhere unsafe. If they fall asleep on the couch, move them. Yes, they might wake up, which seems like the worst possible outcome at the time, but trust that they’ll make up for it later.
Ask your pediatrician before trying something new. Dr. Google suggests a sleep positioner, or sleeping on a wedge, and you just want the reflux (screaming) to get better. We’re been there. But make a quick call or email to your doctor or nurse on call before trying something beyond the recommended firm, flat sleeping surface.
Ask for help if you need it. Being exhausted and barely able to function isn’t something you should have to suck up and push through. Sleep when you can, and if you’re breastfeeding, consider asking a partner to bottle-feed during the night if you’re having trouble making it through. Even if you had planned to breastfeed exclusively, you can feel proud of making the best choice for your baby.
What’s your favorite baby sleep advice? Let us know in the comments!