Safe Sleep for Babies

Setting up a safe sleep environment for your newborn


The whole idea of “safe sleep” can be confusing. Your mom remembers being told to put you to bed “tummy down,” but your midwife says babies need to sleep on their backs. Your grandma made you a cute set of bumpers and pillows when you were born, but your friend says bumper pads are a no-no.

Research has changed our ideas about how and where babies should sleep. Here are some current recommendations:


  • Your baby should sleep on his back.
  • Your baby should share your room for at least the first six to 12 months, UNLESS you or your partner smokes. If one of you smokes (even if you never smoke in the bedroom), have the baby in a separate room, with a baby monitor.
  • The room should not be too warm, and the baby shouldn’t be dressed too warmly, either.
  • The crib should fit current safety standards (be wary of second-hand ones). Follow the directions carefully in putting it together, and check periodically to make sure screws haven’t loosened.
  • Position the crib away from windows, blinds or curtain cords, electrical outlets and other hazardous items the baby might reach.
  • The mattress should be covered with a snug fitted sheet. Other than that, you want as little as possible in the crib. You can do without blankets by dressing the baby in a sleeper or sleep sac. No pillows or bumper pads or stuffed animals should be in the crib with the baby.
  • If you are using a light blanket or top sheet, position the baby so his feet touch the foot-board of the crib, then tuck the blanket in below his shoulders.
  • Any mobiles above the crib should be high enough that the baby can’t reach them.
  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk.
  • If your baby uses a pacifier (and if you decide to use one, it’s recommended that you wait until breastfeeding is well-established), it may be helpful to give it to the baby every night when he goes to sleep.

While guidelines recommend having the baby sleep in a crib, some parents opt to share a bed with the baby. If that’s your choice, bedsharing is safer if you are breastfeeding, not under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication, a non-smoker, and you have a firm mattress on the bed with no duvets or heavy blankets that might cover the baby. Don’t sleep with your baby on couch or recliner.

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