Apr 26, 2024
April 26, 2024

How to practice safe sleep for babies

After a long, exhausting day of non-stop feeding, fleeting cat naps (seriously, can they stretch them out any longer?), and endless diaper changes, all you’re craving is putting your baby down for the night and to finally catch some Z’s yourself. But as soon as they're down for bed, bam! Anxiety hits. Is my baby too cold? Is the sound machine too loud? Are they still breathing? These parental worries are totally relatable, and for a good reason - we just want our babies to sleep safely.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Jess Ellsworth
Medically reviewed by
Jess Ellsworth
Certified Sleep Consultant

What is safe sleep?

Ensuring safe sleep for your baby involves putting them down in a way that minimizes the risks of suffocation, strangulation, choking, and ultimately lowers the risk of SIDS. 

Where should my baby sleep?

It's important for babies to sleep on firm, flat surfaces. This means their crib or bassinet mattress should be covered with a fitted sheet and kept free of any other items. The mattress should fit snugly inside the crib or bassinet without any gaps between the mattress and the frame.

10 safe sleep tips for babies

Here are baby sleep tips to keep your newborn snoozing safely:

1. Keep cribs free of stuff

Cribs and bassinets should be kept clear of blankets, pillows, bedding, bumper pads, stuffed animals, and toys. Avoid attaching any items to the crib slats, including toys or pacifiers, as they can pose suffocation or strangulation risk. Never put your baby to sleep if any of these items are present in their sleep environment.


2. Swaddle

Instead of blankets, opt for a snug-fitting swaddle to keep your baby cozy. There are a wide range of swaddles available, from wrap-style to zippered or velcro designs. Choose one that's easy for you to use and ensures your baby stays securely wrapped without wriggling free. 

3. Don’t bed-share

Always put your baby to sleep in their own crib or bassinet. While sharing a bed with your baby, also known as co-sleeping or bed-sharing, might seem cute and cozy, it poses a risk of accidentally rolling onto your baby and causing suffocation. 

Bed sharing includes sleeping in your bed with a baby placed in a baby pod, cushioned mat, or Dock-A-Tot. These products are not intended for sleep and should not be used for sleeptime. 

4. Back to sleep 

Always put your newborn baby to sleep on their back. Placing them on their belly or side increases the risk of suffocation and SIDS. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), some babies will roll onto their stomach. Nevertheless, always place your baby on their back to sleep first. Once your baby has developed the ability to roll over both ways, there's no need to constantly reposition them onto their back to sleep.

If your baby starts rolling, typically around the 3 or 4-month mark, be sure to swaddle them with their arms out or use a sleep sack instead. Rolling babies may shift onto their side or stomach, and having their arms free allows them to use their hands and arms to push up their head from the mattress if needed.

5. Use a safe crib or bassinet 

While your grandma might suggest using the same crib your mother slept in, it's highly unlikely that it meets current safety standards. Always opt for a crib or bassinet that adheres with the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC-certified cribs meet current safety standards to ensure a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Never use cribs that have been recalled, have broken pieces or parts, or are missing hardware. 

We know it's not what you want to hear, but if your newborn nods off in a car seat, stroller, or swing, it's a good idea to transfer them to their crib or bassinet as soon as possible.

6. Share a room with your baby

The AAP suggests room sharing with your baby, ideally for the first six months, because it significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. Placing your baby's crib or bassinet near your bed makes it easier to keep an eye on and hear your baby during the night, making those middle-of-the-night feeds much more manageable.

7. Keep the room cool

You might have heard that babies tend to sleep better in cooler environments, and experts often suggest maintaining the room temperature between 68°F and 72°F. This safe sleep tip isn't just about comfort - it's also crucial for safer sleep, as overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Avoid overdressing your baby (hats are a no-go!) and opt for breathable fabrics to help them stay cool and comfortable throughout the night.

8. Use a pacifier 

If your baby is willing to take a pacifier, consider offering it to them both during naptime and bedtime. While the exact reasons are not fully understood, pacifiers have been shown to potentially reduce the risk of SIDS. Babies who use pacifiers during sleep might experience lighter sleep and may find it easier to wake up if they have trouble breathing.

 Keep in mind:

  • If your baby doesn’t accept a pacifier, that’s OK. Never force it. 
  • If your baby uses a pacifier and it falls out while they fall asleep, there’s no need to put it back in.
  • Never hang a pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach it to their clothing or to the crib while they are sleeping.
  • Always check pacifiers for any signs of damage, such as broken or torn pieces, before giving them to your baby. Broken pacifiers can have pieces dislodge, which can become a choking hazard.

9. Practice tummy time

Even though your baby might protest during tummy time, it's important for them to practice these motor skills. Tummy time helps strengthen their head, neck, and core muscles, which can help them lift their head when they start rolling onto their stomachs. Tummy time should always be supervised and practiced on flat surfaces. 

10. Place the crib or bassinet away from widow and electrical cords

Windows with shades or dangling cords can pose a danger to newborns. Similarly, electrical cords should be kept out of reach. These hazards could potentially cause strangulation, so it's best to position your crib or bassinet away from them.

Safe sleep fAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about safe sleep for babies:

Can bedtime routines reduce the risk of SIDS?

While bedtime routines don’t reduce the risk of SIDS, they can help prepare babies for sleep. Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine every day can help set the stage for a restful sleep.

The goal with bedtime routines is to prepare their body, both physically and mentally, for sleep. Physically, this could involve giving them a warm bath, changing their diaper, and soothing them with rocking and cuddling before placing them in their crib or bassinet. Mentally, creating a peaceful environment with gentle sounds, soft lighting, calm voices, and maintaining consistency every day can help set the stage for a restful newborn sleep. 

What is an example of a bedtime routine?

Are you trying everything in your power to get your baby to fall asleep? Getting your newborn to sleep is tough, and hopefully a bedtime routine can help. Here's an example:

  • Warm bath: Start off with a calming warm bath to help relax your baby.
  • Baby massage: Follow up with a gentle massage using baby-friendly lotion to soothe and unwind before bedtime.
  • Clean diaper and pajamas: Change into a fresh diaper and cozy pajamas to get ready for bed.
  • Breastfeed or bottle feed while cuddling: Enjoy some quiet feeding time while snuggling closely with your baby.
  • Cuddly time with baby: Spend a few moments cuddling and bonding with your baby before gently placing them on their back to sleep.  

Is it safe to let my baby self-soothe at bedtime?

Yes, it's safe to let your baby self-soothe. I'm sure you're familiar with those midnight wake-up calls, so you know the challenge of getting your newborn to sleep. Babies are pretty good at learning how to self-soothe with a bit of practice. Many babies will self-soothe with a pacifier, while others may discover the magical world of thumb-sucking to help them drift off.

Why is baby sleep so tough?

Newborn sleep struggles are just a passing phase. Every newborn goes through it, and every parent faces the challenge of getting their baby to fall asleep. The number one sleep tip is knowing you’re not alone. Recognizing that it’s a temporary and part of the process can provide reassurance during those tough moments. Hang in there!

Do you have any sleep tips for better newborn sleep?

Here are some sleep tips to get your baby to fall asleep:

  • It’s important to help your baby distinguish between daytime and nighttime. During the newborn stage, babies can get a bit confused, so it’s helpful to create a dark environment to signal sleeptime. Keep daytime or awake times bright with natural light or by keeping the lights on. If you're struggling to maintain a dark room for bedtime, consider investing in blackout shades to ensure the room stays dark when it's time to sleep. Darkness also helps prevent distractions that might keep your baby awake.
  • Speaking of distractions, many babies benefit from a white noise machine to help them fall asleep. Babies may struggle to doze off because they're too distracted or overstimulated by their surroundings. White noise machines play soothing sounds to make it easier for babies to fall asleep. This can be particularly helpful if you have a noisy pet or older siblings running around, since the white noise helps drown out those outside sounds that might be keeping your baby awake. Include white noise in your bedtime routine and see if it helps. 
  • It's not uncommon for babies to wet their diapers shortly after being changed, which can make them feel uncomfortable. If your baby is having trouble settling down for sleep, it's a good idea to check their diaper for any signs of wetness or soiling. Add a diaper change to your bedtime routine for better newborn sleep.
  • While your newborn baby will spend most of their time sleeping during a 24-hour period, it's essential to incorporate awake periods, particularly before bedtime. If your baby wakes up from a nap too close to bedtime, they may not feel tired enough to fall asleep.  While it's never a good idea to wake a sleeping newborn, sometimes you may need to be flexible and adjust bedtime if they woke up late from a nap.

How much sleep does my baby need?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), newborns sleep 16-17 hours per day. While that’s a lot of time, it’s not usually one continuous stretch, and baby sleep is broken up into shorter periods of sleep or naps. 

Can I start sleep training during the newborn period?

There's no need to start formal sleep training until your baby is at least four months old. For now, focus on consistent bedtime routines. 


Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Data and Statistics for SIDS and SUID 

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Safe Sleep Recommendations: Back is Best

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Sleep

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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