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Safe Sleep Steps

Follow these steps to create a safe sleep environment for your baby. These steps aren’t always as simple as they sound. If you need help or feel overwhelmed, talk with your healthcare provider to create a plan that is best for you and your baby. Reach out to family and friends to ask for help.
  • Babies are safest when they sleep in their own crib, bassinet or pack and play. When babies sleep with an adult or another child, that person could accidently roll onto baby causing suffocation. A baby can get stuck or wedged between the bed and the wall, furniture or other objects. Babies can suffocate on objects in the sleep environment, such as pillows and blankets. Babies can fall off couches or chairs or get wedged between their cushions.

  • Back sleeping protects a baby’s airway and ensures access to fresh air. Babies sleeping on the stomach can sleep too deeply and may not wake up to take a breath. Once baby can roll from back to stomach and from stomach to back, they can be allowed to remain in the sleep position that baby chooses.
  • Babies are protected when their crib, bassinet or pack and play is bare. Babies can suffocate on pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and other objects in their sleep area.
  • It is easier to feed, comfort, and keep an eye on your baby when their crib is close to your bed and experts have found that babies who sleep in their parents’ room (in their own sleep space) have a reduced risk of sleep-related infant death.
  • Getting too warm or overheated can increase a baby’s risk of sleep-related infant death. Your baby should be dressed for the space they are in. If you think your baby is cold, dress them in a footed sleeper with a sleep sack right for their size and age. After hospital discharge, your baby does not need to wear a hat when indoors. Hats can cause baby to get too warm because baby is unable to release heat through their head. Hats can also slip off and become a suffocation hazard. 
  • Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for your baby, builds their immune system and promotes bonding, as well as many other health benefits for mom and baby. Feeding your baby human milk has been shown to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant death.
  • Having a smoke- and nicotine-free environment protects babies. Smoking and nicotine use during pregnancy and exposure to secondhand smoke increases a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related infant death. Recent research shows that smoking even one cigarette a day during pregnancy doubles a baby’s risk of sleep-related death.
  • Pacifier use has been associated with a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For breastfed infants, pacifiers shouldn’t be used until breastfeeding is firmly established.
  • Babies are safest when they sleep in a crib, bassinet or pack ‘n play. Babies can suffocate while sleeping in a swing or any seat that puts them on an incline. An incline could cause a baby’s head to slump and his or her airway could be pinched. A baby’s airway is only about the size of a drinking straw! Also, a baby can more easily roll over when sleeping on an incline even if he or she hasn’t done so before. Rolling over in an inclined seat can cause a baby to suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in a swing, bouncy seat, car seat, or other sitting devices, he or she should be moved to a crib, bassinet, or pack ‘n play as soon as it is possible.
  • Tummy time helps babies develop neck, shoulder and arm muscles that help them move and meet developmental milestones. It also helps prevent the development of a flat head.

Share this information with all family, friends, and child care providers who may care for your baby to ensure they follow the safe sleep steps. Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to common questions about these guidelines.

It is also important that you and your baby stay healthy – by obtaining regular prenatal care, taking baby to wellness checkups and obtaining recommended immunizations. Learn more about keeping healthy.

These guidelines based on the American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations for a Safe Sleeping Environment.