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The Making of Medicine

New Safe-Sleep Guidelines for Babies – What to Know

Our Rachel Moon, MD, has led the development of important new safe-sleep recommendations from the National Academy of Pediatrics. It's the first update in five years, and here are some key takeaways.

The new guidelines underscore the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs on flat, level surfaces. This is to help reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. Approximately 3,500 babies die sleep-related deaths in this country each and every year. Many of these deaths -- not all, but many -- are preventable.

One key point: There should be nothing but baby in the crib. No toys, no pillows, just baby. While appealing to parents, soft goods and stuffed animals can pose suffocation risks.

Other recommendations:

  • The sleep surface should comply with all federal safety standards. Sounds obvious, but do you know for sure?
  • Inclined surfaces, including car seats, infant carriers, strollers and slings, should be avoided for regular sleeping. This is especially important for infants younger than 4 months. 
  • Take a pass on any device that claims to reduce the risk of SIDS or other sleep-related deaths. There's no evidence to support this. 
  • There's also no evidence that home cardiorespiratory monitors or wearable monitors will prevent SIDS. If you decide to use these, stay vigilant and continue to follow the safe-sleep guidelines.
  • Parents should sleep in the same room as baby, but not in the same bed.

Both breastfeeding and pacifier use are associated with reduced risk of SIDS, the guidelines note. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed if they can; even a little breast milk is better than none.

Together, these recommendations offer simple steps parents can take to help keep their babies safe. “The best way to protect your baby while they are asleep," Dr. Moon notes, "is to follow these guidelines."

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