If you’re anything like first-time, newly-pregnant me, this might sound very familiar:
You browse Pinterest looking for the best nursery decor inspiration. You save hundreds of pins, dreaming of your child’s perfect bedding, coordinated wall-hangings, and all of the memories you’ll make in the room together.
And maybe you spend hours setting up their crib, adding all of the must-have baby products. And once your new bundle of joy arrives, they end up sleeping in a bassinet in your room, with their beautiful crib sitting unused for months (or years!).
I’ll admit: as a new mom, it was all about the aesthetics – safe sleep environments weren’t on my radar much. Looking back, it’s now easy to see the areas that weren’t the safest for my child to sleep in, like his crib bumpers or his sleep tight blanket hanging from the crib. But in the moment, I was only focused on what looked nice, not necessarily what could be hazardous.
As fun as it may be to dream of the picture-perfect nursery, the truth is, your newborn needs very little when it comes to their sleep.
Above all, we want to make sure they’re in a safe sleep environment at all times. With so much changing information that’s available to new parents, you may wonder what’s truly safe, what’s needed, and what’s not.
Caryn, a good colleague of mine, recently published a data-rich, comprehensive post about safe sleep guidelines, and that’s a good place to start your research.
While you’re planning your child’s nursery and thinking through their decor, don’t forget to remember the safe sleep foundations.
Follow the A, B, C’s of Sleep
The top safe sleep elements that all parents should follow are the A, B, C’s of sleep – Alone, on their back, in their crib.
A: Alone in their crib. When practicing safe sleep, this first piece is critical. You want to ensure your child’s crib is the dullest that you can possibly make it: a firm, flat mattress with no bumpers, no toys, no blankets. Some of these items can cause strangulation or can pose a hazard if your child gets caught in them. This also includes monitors that track your child’s breathing, like the Owlet. Just a fitted sheet and your baby is all that should be in the crib.
B: Put your baby on their back to sleep. At the start of any and all sleep, place your child on their back. When your baby is able to roll over on their own, it’s generally okay to leave them if they make their way to sleep on their tummy. However, never place a baby directly on their stomach to sleep – always place them on their backs.
C: Your baby should sleep in their crib. Essentially, your baby needs their own sleep space, whether that’s a bassinet, a pack and play, or a crib. Sleep surfaces like the couch or a bed without sides can pose safety risks, as they weren’t specifically designed for baby sleep.
Once you have the A, B, C’s in place, you then want to make sure your child’s sleep environment is set up for safe sleep.
Keep the Sleep Environment Safe
Ideally, the room temperature should be between 68-72 degrees to prevent overheating and to keep your baby cool. If your baby is a newborn, they should wear comfortable sleep clothes and a swaddle or sleep sack.
With the recent AAP updated safe sleep guidelines, you want to make sure their sleep sack isn’t weighted. Because every company uses different wording and marketing, it’s important to do your research before putting your child in a potentially unsafe sleep sack.
For example, the Magic Merlin Sleepsuit may seem like it’s a weighted product, but it’s not and is still considered safe. The material on this sleepsuit is made of three layers of fabric and doesn’t contain weighted material, so it abides by the AAP guidelines.
However, other sleep sacks may contain weighted material that could create an unsafe situation for your little one. As always, thoroughly researching any product is a great idea before introducing it to your baby.
Avoid Surface-Sharing Sleep with Your Baby
This goes back to the “A” of the A, B, C’s of safe sleep, but it is a very important element of safe sleep, so it deserves a deeper conversation.
For a parent who is sleep deprived, you have no control over how or when you fall asleep at times. And sharing a sleep surface can pose hazards – your little one can roll off the bed, you can accidentally roll onto your baby, or they can get caught in your bedding.
For a deeper dive into why certain sleep surfaces are unsuitable for your baby, be sure to check out Caryn’s post.
Aside from the convenience for a breastfeeding mom to not have to get up to feed her baby, there isn’t a great benefit to surface sharing.
However, if you feel comfortable room sharing with your child in their own sleep space, that’s an amazing option. The AAP has recommended that parents room share, as it can decrease SIDS. Recently in their new updated guidelines, the AAP recommends room sharing for 6 months, as the risk of SIDS is highest the first 4 months. Once you are ready to transition your little one to their own room, you will want to invest in a baby monitor to listen and watch your baby when they are sleeping and you’re still awake.
Creating a safe sleep environment is a foundational piece of quality, restorative sleep for your little one. In fact, in my Newborn Sleep Survival Program, you not only receive a sleep survival guide that covers what to expect from your newborn (their daytime feeding and sleep schedules), but we also talk about how to practice safe sleep.
And that includes a virtual nursery assessment where I get to tour your beautifully set up nursery and provide feedback to you to ensure a safe environment. Additionally, you’ll get check-in texts via Voxer for the first 3 months of your baby’s life – an invaluable resource for new parents who want to lay a solid sleep foundation for their baby for years to come.