Safety In: Infant Sleep

Posted on: September 7, 2020 | Babies, Children, Doulas, education, Information, Parenting, Postpartum Doulas, Safety, sleep

Celebrating National Baby Safety Month with Vegas Family Doulas continues this week focusing on infant sleep safety! Who doesn’t love gazing at peacefully slumbering babies? The cherub baby faces interacting with the happenings of their sweet dreams. The phantom smiles that occur while their eyes are closed tight. The low whimpers and guffaws out of thin air.  Watching and wondering what images are dancing in their heads. Ah yes, the sounds of sleeping silence. All the while, many babies are sleeping in unsafe sleeping environments. Did you know that SIDS/SUIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome/Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome) claims the life of roughly 2300 babies a year? Let’s dive into the world of infant sleep safety. 

How often should a baby sleep?

Babies sleep like it’s their job because frankly, it is! Eat. Sleep. Poop. Look adorable. Repeat. These sleeps will be scattered throughout the day and depending on age or status, will be more frequent and/or longer. Most infant sleep will come in the form of naps. Naps in a newborn will occur as often as they eat, such as every 2-3 hours. As the baby ages, (typically 4 months and older) naps are longer in length and shorter in occurrence. A morning nap shortly after waking for the day, the 2-3 hours long afternoon nap, followed by a 1-hour “cat nap” before bedtime. Babies will also often sleep more frequently if they are experiencing a growth spurt or are under the weather. Channeling what is a normal healthy sleep pattern in the baby will help gauge when sleep appears “off” and there are other underlying issues to address. 

How much sleep does a baby need?  

Sleep is highly important for their growth and development. On average, a healthy newborn (0-3 months) will sleep 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period. At 4 months and older, 14-16 hours a day is expected. This is taking into account nap times and bedtimes. These frequent shut-eye sessions aid the body to do its job internally. Allowing your baby to get healthy amounts of rest is a good thing. Babies that seem to “sleep too much”, may be going through a growth spurt, leap, or fighting off an illness. If sleep counteracts feedings, consider reaching out to the baby’s care provider for assessment.  

Where is the safest place for a baby to sleep?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best place for a baby to sleep for the first 12 weeks of life, is in the same room with the parents. The baby’s breathing syncs with their caregivers, preventing baby from falling too deep into a sleep. Co-sleeping, (different from bed-sharing) is when the baby and caregivers share the same room space, but in their own bed space. Bed-sharing, is when the baby shares the same sleeping apparatus. Bed-sharing is not recommended for babies. Many adult beds are made from soft materials that dents and creates rollover factors. People that smoke have 2nd-hand smoke layers permeating through their clothes and skin, creating an increase of CO2 exposure. The rollover factor of an adult or child onto the baby is another high-risk factor for unsafe sleep.  

There are options when it comes to where babies should sleep. The bassinet is most common for newborns. Bassinets usually reside next to the bedside of their caregiver. Bassinets have a set standard that they have to achieve to be approved to sell to consumers. What makes a bassinet a sleep hazard, is if the baby is sleeping in the bassinet past the recommended age or weight limits. Check with the bassinet manufacturer guide for their “stop using by” restrictions.

The crib is often the preferred sleep space by parents of older babies, making a transition from bassinet or bed to crib. Drop-side cribs are no longer permitted for sale or use in the US. Drop-side cribs are typically found in older cribs before 2010 where one side of the crib slides down. Cribs should not have any bumpers, pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals placed inside them. These are all potential suffocation hazards. Cribs should be in good working conditions, and not have chips or defects.

How to implement safe sleep practices?

A firm flat surface is recommended for babies to sleep on. A firm surface prevents sinking into the mattress. Some baby mattresses have 2 sides, an infant side and a toddler side. Be sure to place the correct age appropriate side up when using. Bassinet mattresses are thinner and firmer than crib mattress to not add height to the baby in bassinet, and to promote safe sleep practices in that smaller sleep area. 

Back to sleep is a phrase that is said in the sleep world. This is to help educate parents on the ‘back to sleep’ initiative and to get the parents to place the baby in their sleep space on their backs. A baby can asphyxiate if they are placed face down (or on their side) and unable to roll back over.  

Swaddling is not only a way to get a baby to sleep nice and snug, it’s also a safe sleep assistant. With sleep sacks like Halo, Love to Dream, and Nested Bean, these swaddles take the guesswork out swaddling. Swaddling also prevents the baby from self-waking with the moro reflex,and also keeps the baby warm/cool preventing overheating or too cool. It is very important to read the labels of the swaddles. If the baby is swaddled in a swaddle blanket, make sure that blankets are night and taut on the baby with no loose parts. When swaddling with a sleep sack, fit the swaddle to the baby’s weight as opposed to the age for safest fit. Remember to cease swaddling with arms once the baby is 4 months or able to roll over by themselves, whichever comes first. 

Sleeping alone is another big proponent to infant sleep safety. Meaning only the baby is in their sleeping space. No blankets, no pillows, no stuffed animals or crib bumpers. All of the aforementioned items are unsafe due to possible suffocation risks. Pacifiers have been stated to decrease the risk of SIDS because it allows babies to stay in a state that they are able to wake up easily from. 

How does infant sleep effect parents?

Babies are noise makers. Every grunt, sigh, gasp, whimper, or kick send parents flying to the bedside.  A baby’s digestive system works efficiently while they are sleeping. Allow the baby to rest, and when they wake and need you, you’ll be there. It’s important for caregivers to also make sure that their sleep is enabling them to rest and recharge. Watching over the baby while they sleep takes away from time that one needs to take a breath and reset. For a peace of mind over a sleeping baby, caregivers can utilize a baby monitor. Baby monitors come in all forms from audio only to audio with visual to motion and breathing. Monitors are ways that parents can keep a keen eye on their baby while sleeping, and give the baby the space to enjoy their sleep.  

When it come to infant sleep safety, how often the baby is sleeping, how much baby is sleeping, or where baby is sleeping, know that the protocol to ensure the safest sleep possible for baby is key! Our doulas are trained and versed in safe sleep practices and can help implement a healthy sleep pattern for parents and their baby. Continue following our blog next week as we celebrate child passenger safety week with car seat safety! For more safety tips or resources, go to: SafeKids Worldwide