Safe Sleep Support and Practical Advice for New Parents

Presented By: Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC

Newborn babies will spend most of their early life, up to 16-17 hours per day sleeping. Beyond feeding and making sure that baby is getting everything they need to develop and grow optimally, we want to make sure that they are ALWAYS safe!

As a Registered Nurse, a Certified Nurse Midwife and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, I have been working with new parents for over 25 years teaching them how to create the safest sleeping environment for their babies, as well as practical and useful advice that will help them soothe their babies while keeping them safe at the same time!

More than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping, often due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental deaths from suffocation or strangulation. It is well accepted in the medical community that consistently practicing the “safe sleep” guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics is one of the best ways that you can protect babies from these unexpected and accidental tragedies.

As professionals, it is our responsibility to make sure that we discuss these simple but critical recommendations with all new parents. As new parents, it is their responsibility to follow them and make it a priority each and every time the baby is put down to sleep.

Some of these recommendations include:

  • Sleeping on their backs for all sleep times for the first year (until they can roll over and back themselves)
  • Using a firm sleep surface (crib or bassinet)
  • Room share with the baby for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year
  • Never place a baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair
  • Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area
  • Avoid overheating

While the specific recommendations do help to prevent SIDS and accidental suffocation and strangulation, unfortunately they are not always followed.

Parents are often misinformed or confused about the safety, or lack of safety of a particular practice or product. Let’s face it, babies can be very fussy, they cry, they don’t sleep for long stretches at a time. All of this will contribute to parents becoming more and more desperate to just get a few hours of sleep.

In my experience, I have found is that it is not enough to just give parents the “rules” about safe sleep, but it is also critically important to provide them with the education and the “tools” that will ultimately help them to soothe their babies, help them sleep better, and set them up with realistic expectations so that they understand that it is normal for babies wake often to feed, especially in the first few months.

When we ONLY review what the parents should ideally be doing with their babies and not acknowledge that parents need support to help their babies sleep and soothe, it creates a situation where parents may not follow the guidelines and then feel ashamed or frustrated discussing their baby’s sleep arrangements. This creates a huge missed opportunity to provide real support and to ultimately reduce the risk to the baby.

This is why in addition to reviewing safe sleep guidelines and normal newborn expectations and behavior, I always discuss soothing techniques and tools or products that are both effective and safe.  One of the best baby products that I have come across for helping babies to self-soothe, sleep longer and prevent overheating, suffocation and rolling over on to their bellies is the Love To Dream “Swaddle Up” Swaddle! It has become one of my top recommendations to all new parents because it’s safe, it’s easy to use, and it works!

The unique design of this swaddle allows the baby’s arms to be up in a natural sleep position. This allows baby to have access to their hands for self-soothing in order to settle themselves to sleep, by sucking on their fingers or gently rubbing their cheeks. They can also help to prevent the baby from accidentally rolling over on to their belly.

They are snugly fit, single layer breathable fabric, and easy to secure baby in with no experience or instructions. This eliminates excess loose fabric in the crib that can happen with standard swaddle blankets that come undone, as well as reduce overheating that can happen when these large blankets are wrapped several times creating multiple layers of fabric over the baby.

Babies are used to the snugness of the womb which helps them to feel secure as well as suppress their moro (startle) reflex. This all leads to a calmer baby that sleeps between feedings, as well as a safe environment that parents can easily create and follow each time.

Always review safe sleep guidelines with new parents, but also be sure to support them with the knowledge and practical advice that will help them get through those long nights with their new baby safely and with as little stress as possible!

My Baby Experts © 2017

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2 thoughts on “Safe Sleep Support and Practical Advice for New Parents”

    1. Thanks Kimberly! Loved your talk on Safe Sleep this weekend! Practical, realistic and very helpful to all of us helping moms and babies to be safe and get a little more sleep!

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