Dr. Dana Johnson: Many Choices for a Safe Night’s Sleep

A trip to the baby store will quickly show you there are numerous options available for infant sleep locations. Some are recommended and some are not.

Originally published on March 27, 2014, in the Wisconsin State JournalDr. Johnson is a pediatrician practicing at the Meriter McKee clinic.

Dear Dr. Johnson: I am expecting and trying to plan where my baby will sleep. What is your recommendation?

Dear Reader: A trip to the baby store will quickly show you there are numerous options available for infant sleep locations. Some are recommended and some are not.

The first step is to determine what room or rooms where your baby will sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room-sharing where infants sleep in the same room as their parents until 6 months of age. The advantage of this is that it is easier to respond to a newborn’s needs during the night when in the same room. Studies also show a reduction in SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Babies should, however, have their own area for sleep outside the parents’ bed.

I have found that most parents know if room sharing is a good option for their family and when it is time to transition their infant to his own room.

In the infant’s room, most parents find a crib to be the best sleep location. Some basic safety components are to make sure the crib slats are no more than 23/8 inches apart and that the mattress fits snugly with less than 2 finger widths gap around the edge. Avoid bumper pads and drop side cribs. If using an older crib, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov to ensure it has not been recalled.

If you have a large master bedroom, a crib may fit in your room and be a good option there as well. Many people choose smaller beds for the baby, however, when room sharing. Some of these options include a bassinet, a bassinet with a drop side, or a pack ’n play (some with a bassinet option).

When comparing these various options, the AAP recommends babies sleep on a firm, flat surface to reduce SIDS. I have found it advantageous to be able to have my babies close to the bed so I can touch them without getting out of bed. Sometimes a gentle touch, rocking side to side or replacing a pacifier is all an infant needs to be soothed back to sleep. If I don’t have to leave the comfort of my own bed, even better. Having them close can also benefit breast feeding and overall bonding.

It is not recommended that babies sleep in swings, car seats, bouncy seats or other places where they are in an inclined, sitting position.

You may find that a combination of sleep locations works best. Some babies will nap in their crib in their own room and sleep in a bassinet in their parents’ room overnight. No matter which option you choose for your baby, make sure the mattress and sheets are snug-fitting, there are no heavy blankets or stuffed animals in the bed, and your baby always sleeps on his back until he can roll onto his stomach on his own.

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