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How Babies Sleep Safely - What You Need to Know

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newborn and grandmaSince 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While the incidence of SIDS has dropped 42% in the United States since 1992, many families and caregivers still put infants on their stomachs or side to sleep.

Unless specified otherwise by a doctor, it is critically important to consistently follow the practice of placing infants on their backs to sleep, particularly when an infant has multiple caregivers. Although side sleeping was initially suggested as an alternative position, this recommendation was changed when studies showed that the back-sleeping position confers the best level of protection against SIDS.

Other crib safety factors relate to reducing the risk of SIDS and to preventing suffocation. They include the following:

  1. A crib should be in good repair with no missing or broken hardware; have slats that are no more than 2-3/8 inches apart (about the diameter of a soda can); and be equipped with a firm, tight-fitting mattress.
  2. Waterbeds, sleeping bags, soft pillows, or sofas should not be used as infant sleeping surfaces.
  3. No pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, or other soft products should be in the crib.
  4. If a blanket is used, the infant should be place at the foot of the crib, with the blanket tucked around the crib mattress and reaching only as far as the infant's chest.

For resources and further information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), crib safety, and infant sleep policies, contact the following groups:

SIDS Alliance - 800-221-SIDS, the "Back to Sleep" Campaign - 800-505-CRIB, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission -  or the American Academy of Pediatrics -

From Young Children September 2001

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