Safe dreams: sleep safety for babies

In a two-week span in Wayne County, Michigan this spring, nine infants died because of unsafe sleeping conditions. Sleep-related infant deaths are a tragic problem nationwide and occur at a rate of 12 per day in the U.S., making them a leading cause of preventable death for children under age 1.

Common reasons for sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) due to unsafe sleep include babies falling asleep with soft bedding (like pillows, plush blankets, and stuffed toys) and parents or caregivers falling asleep with infants.  To get a better understanding of infant sleep safety across the country, we asked parents of young children up to age three about their infants’ sleep environments and their opinions about safe sleep for babies.

While most parents (89%) in this NPCH Report have heard the “back to sleep” message and believe placing an infant on his/her back is a safe sleep position, 7 out of 10 parents say they have fallen asleep with their infants. Most of these parents say they’ve fallen asleep with their babies unintentionally, but there are still 30% who say they intend to sleep with their children. Additionally, 4 in 10 parents in this Poll say they believe it is safe for infants to sleep in a bed with another person. Read the full report: Many infants at risk in unsafe sleep settings.

Although managing sleep with an infant can be very challenging, it’s important to follow expert safety guidelines in order to keep babies safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing infants to sleep on their backs, on a firm sleep surface, in their own sleep spaces (not bed-sharing). Additionally, soft objects should not be placed in a baby’s sleep environment. This includes pillows, stuffed animals/toys, and plush blankets.

For more information on safe sleep for babies, read the American Academy of Pediatrics resource, “A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep”.