Most new parents struggle for weeks, and sometimes months, of sleepless nights tending to their newborns’ needs. Many wonder, “When will my baby sleep through the night?” From using a pacifier and swaddling, to rocking baby and using soothing sounds, your pediatrician may be able to offer simple tips to help with those challenging nights. One thing pediatricians like Jennifer Arnold, M.D., always recommend, is creating a safe sleep environment.
“Unfortunately, thousands of babies die each year due to unsafe sleeping conditions such as accidental suffocation or strangulation,” says Arnold, neonatologist and medical director for the Center for Medical Simulation and Innovative Education at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome – is one of the leading causes of death but is often preventable.”
Arnold suggests a couple key tips to ensuring your baby sleeps safely at night and during naps:
- Ensure crib slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart
- Avoid purchasing an older crib, play yard or bassinet that’s not up to safety standards
- Never place a crib near a window with blinds/cords
- Skip bumper pads as they could cause accidental suffocation or strangulation
- Always place baby to sleep on his/her back
- Never share a bed, or co-sleep, with baby
- Avoid soft bedding, sheets should be tightly fitted to mattress
- Never put blankets, pillows or toys in baby’s crib
Remember babies should sleep alone, on their back, and in a crib without any extras (no blankets, toys, pillows, baby bumpers). While following the tips above will help to prevent accidental injuries and suffocation, many new parents may still worry and check on newborns during the night to see if they are still breathing. Just remember, if their chest is rising and you hear light breaths and see normal coloring, they are likely just fine. Heavy or consistent rapid breathing and no chest movement is uncommon; however, if you ever notice something like this, call your pediatrician, or in an emergency, call 911.
“Being a new parent can be both exciting and overwhelming,” says Arnold. “Taking steps such as reviewing safety tips and prepping bedding before baby arrives can help prevent accidental injuries and keep baby safe.”
Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/parenting for more tips on safe sleep, breastfeeding and other questions about babies and toddler health.