Keeping Baby Safe and Sound while Sleeping
Infant sleep patterns evolve over time. Newborns have irregular sleep cycles and may sleep as much as 16 hours a day, often in stretches of just one to two hours at a time. A more consistent sleep schedule emerges as the baby’s nervous system matures and he is able to go longer between feedings.
Questions to Ask
- How is your baby sleeping? What is her sleep/wake schedule?
- Where does your baby sleep? What position does she sleep in?
- What is your bedtime routine for your baby?
- How long is she sleeping at night?
- Does your baby ever wake up during the night?
- Discussion of concerns around a baby’s sleep is often the provider’s first opportunity to demonstrate nonjudgmental support of parents, which will encourage future openness and honesty.
- Ask parents about sleeping arrangements. If they are co-sleeping with their baby, be sensitive to cultural practices and use the guidance below to identify hazards of co-sleeping.
- Using the guidance listed below, discuss sleep safety issues and the importance of parents establishing bedtime routines.
Guidance for Parents
- To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), always place your baby on her back for sleeping. Keep pillows, toys, and soft bedding out of her crib.
- If you are co-sleeping with your baby, be sure you are aware of the hazards that exist when your baby sleeps in bed with you:
- Overlying – you might accidentally roll on top of your baby
- Entrapment – your baby could get trapped between the mattress and headboard or wall
- Suffocation – your baby could get smothered in a waterbed, bedding, or other overly soft surfaces
- Smoking in bed – can increase the risk of SIDS
- Your baby will be close to you and safe if you put her to sleep in your bedroom but in her own crib. This is the safest place for your baby to sleep. Never allow your baby to sleep in a water bed, chair, or sofa.
- Don’t try to wake your baby up for feedings, especially if she is in a deep, quiet sleep. Waking her may be almost impossible, and she probably will not feed well.
- Your baby needs your help in developing regular times for sleeping and being awake. Consistent bedtime and sleep routines that include cuddling, singing, reading, and talking softly help your baby to feel secure, form regular sleep patterns, and eventually sleep longer at night. Share ’her sleep routines with others who care for her so they can maintain consistent routines.
- You can help your baby learn to put herself to sleep by placing her in her crib while she is drowsy but not asleep. If your baby wakes at night, check on her and settle her back to sleep. This will help her begin to put herself back to sleep.
- In time your baby can learn to console herself and fall asleep by sucking her finger or a pacifier, and rocking her body.