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Safer Slumbers: Sleep Safety Tips

There’s nothing like that moment of peace that falls over a new parent as their infant drifts off to sleep. While a good night of sleep is important to the health of both parent and child, when it comes to infants, ensuring that the sleep is also safe is a crucial responsibility.

In 2021 alone, Hillsborough County reports six unsafe sleep deaths, all of which occurred in babies under a year old, says Michelle Sterling, BayCare Kids Wellness and Safety Specialist. Such deaths are a tragically rising trend, Sterling says, even though they are completely preventable.

Whether you are bringing your first baby home, are a veteran parent or a caregiver for an infant you love, it’s vital that you pay attention to baby’s sleep environment to make sure it is a safe one. Sterling has nine takeaways for caregivers to remember when putting their bundle of joy to bed.

  1. It is not safe to let baby sleep in an adult’s bed or in a bean bag, couch or air mattress. Babies can suffocate if they roll over on such unstable, uneven surfaces. They can even become trapped between a mattress and the wall.
  2. Always place babies on their back. Despite advice from anyone who assures you that they lay baby on her tummy and patted her to sleep in their time, sleeping on their back is the safest way for baby to slumber.
  3. Baby’s sleep surface should be firm with tightly fitted sheets. Don’t use loose sheets that can be pulled free and cover the baby’s face. Rather than a blanket, opt for a zip-up sleep sack.
  4. Keep the crib clear of toys, blankets and bumpers. As adorable as those baby shower gifts may be, they need to stay out of the crib.
  5. Dress baby for room temperature. Many of us have a tendency to bundle up or overdress an infant, assuming that they will become colder quickly. It’s safest to dress baby for the same comfort level we are dressing for.
  6. Share your rules for baby’s sleep with all caregivers—even if it leads to awkward confrontations. Be firm with those who may try to argue that things were different when they raised children.
  7. Make sure all loose cords and strings (such as from blinds or curtains) are pulled away from the baby’s crib and cannot accidentally dangle inside and pose a choking hazard.
  8. If you want to stay close to baby, it’s fine to sleep in the same room, just not in the same bed. Keeping the crib or bassinet in the same room makes midnight feedings easier but ensures that mom and baby both get a good and safe night’s sleep.
  9. Call BayCare Kids Wellness and Safety Center at 813-615-0589 to find out about safe, low-cost products you can purchase to help your infant get a good night’s sleep. These include Pack ‘n Plays, sleep sacks and fitted crib sheets.

“If someone calls, we can help find options,” Sterling says. “We are always happy to help with resources and ideas.”

Anu Varma Panchal
Anu Varma Panchal
Associate Editor Anu Varma Panchal has a master’s degrees in journalism and more than 15 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Iowa and Florida. She has lived in Florida for more than 10 years, and enjoys raising her two daughters in Tampa Bay. When Anu isn’t writing or editing for area publications, she’s busy driving her kids to all their music and dance activities. She volunteers regularly in her daughters’ schools and Parent Teacher Associations, and spent a wonderful two years immersed in local history as a volunteer in the Tampa Bay History Museum’s Collections department. Although her idea of the ultimate good time is usually found between the pages of a book, Anu also enjoys yoga, her book club, travel, theater and area food and music festivals.

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