Safe Sleep Choices

By Meri Levy, MFT, CLE

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of bed-sharing versus cribs, there are safe ways and unsafe ways to put your baby to sleep. Here are some tips to help your baby sleep safely with or without you.

Crib Safety

The Problem: Over 9,000 children are brought to hospitals each year due to injuries suffered in cribs. An average of 54 children per year die from crib injuries.

How to Keep Safe: Avoid used cribs with corner post extensions, ill-fitting mattresses, wide slats, or other features that can cause injury. If you are not sure if a used crib is safe, don?t use it!

Features to Beware of:

    • Corner posts should not be higher than the end panels on the crib. Children’s clothing can get caught on extended corner posts and pose a strangulation hazard.
    • Space between slats must be less than 2 3/8″ and no slats should be missing.
    • All screws, bolts and hardware must be in place and tight to prevent the crib from collapsing.
    • Mattress must fit snugly so that two adult fingers cannot fit between the mattress and the crib side.
    • Do not use cribs with cutout designs in end panels. Child can strangle due to entrapment.


Crib Safety Tips:

  • Never put infants to sleep on fluffy, plush surfaces such as sheepskins, quilts, comforters or pillows.
  • Never fasten a pacifier around a baby’s neck
  • Never hang any object from a string where a baby could become caught it in and strangle
  • Never leave a child in the crib with the side rail lowered.
  • Remove crib gyms and mobiles when baby is able to push up on hands and knees
  • Keep drapes, ribbons, blind cords and wall hangings out of child’s reach
  • Make sure crib sheets fit securely. If they come loose, they can pose a strangulation hazard
  • Always put your infant to sleep on his or her back, unless your doctor directs otherwise

Safe Bed-Sharing

The problem:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned parents against bed-sharing due to the risks presented by adult bedding and the concern that parents may roll over on their babies.

How to Keep Safe:

Make sure that your bed is a safe sleeping environment for a baby, and never allow a smoker or an adult who is impaired by drugs, alcohol or medications to sleep with your baby.

Bed-Sharing Safety Tips:

  • Always place your infant on its back to sleep. Do not use anything to prop or hold your baby in place.
  • Be careful when using certain medications, drugs or alcohol. If you or your partner are taking any substance that makes you drowsy, it is best to place baby in a crib next to your bed, to avoid the risk of mistakenly smothering your baby.
  • Avoid using fluffy pillows, stuffed toys, plastics and loose bedding, which pose a suffocation hazard. Place the baby on a firm flat surface which is covered by a tight fitting sheet ? even for naps.

Other tips for safe sleeping:

  • Do not let anyone smoke around your baby. Second-hand smoke affects normal infant breathing and can cause respiratory and other medical problems. Do not bedshare if you are a smoker.
  • Do not put baby to sleep on sofas, recliners, waterbeds, futons, or beanbags, even for naps.
  • Avoid overheating your baby. Your baby should be lightly clothed for sleep, and the temperature of your home should be kept comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. Your baby should not feel hot or moist to the touch.

For more information on safe sleeping, contact the Contra Costa SIDS Program at 925-313-6254. For more information on crib safety, contact The Danny Foundation at 1-800-833-2669.

Information for this article was provided by the Contra Costa SIDS Program and The Danny Foundation.