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Since your newborns’ biggest past-time is sleeping, you may be wondering what do newborns sleep in? Let’s talk about what you should and shouldn’t have your baby wear to sleep, as well as the best sleep surfaces for your little one.
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What Do Newborns Sleep in – Why Does It Matter?
Safe sleeping practices have garnered more attention since the early 90’s when the Back to Sleep campaign was introduced. Simple changes to newborn sleep habits dramatically decreased the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the United States by 53% (1). SIDS is the sudden, unexplainable death of an infant younger than 1 year of age. SIDS occurs most often during sleep.
As the name implies, the Back to Sleep campaign (now known as the Safe to Sleep campaign) encourages parents to place babies to sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs. The campaign also informs parents about safe sleep surfaces and clothing options. Consider the following snooze do’s and don’ts for the first year of your baby’s life.
What Do Newborns Sleep in – Snooze Do’s
Newborn Sleep Clothing Do’s:
Babies should be dressed in similar layers to you since their temperature runs similar to yours. A good rule of thumb is to dress them one light layer more than you yourself are wearing. Clothes that are not overly loose fitting, have convenient access for diaper changes, and are not bulky are the best choice for sleeping.
Footed sleepers that snap or zip are a great choice. Have your newborn wear a light newborn hat to help keep baby’s body temperature regulated. If it’s cold, a well-fitting wearable sleeping blanket is a great option. Newborns can be swaddled, but it is important to not have too many layers of clothing on under the swaddle. And remember, always place babies on their backs to sleep. This is true especially for swaddled babies.
Newborn Sleep Surface Do’s:
Babies should always sleep on a firm, flat sleeping surface that is completely clear of objects. This can include a safety-approved crib, a portable crib, a play yard, or a bassinet. While it may not be as cute to look at, boring is better!
Room-sharing without bed-sharing is generally recommended as the safest way to sleep. Keep your baby’s crib in your room until he is at least 6 months old and has learned to roll from side to side on his own (2,3).
What Do Newborns Sleep In – Snooze Don’ts
Newborn Sleep Clothing Don’ts:
Any clothing that is loose could potentially creep over a baby’s face and should be avoided. Do not use clothing with hoods or loose strings or fabric.
Overheating baby with too many layers can be dangerous. As new parents, my husband once put our 5-month-old daughter to sleep for a nap swaddled in a polar fleece blanket. When she awoke, he found her red, sweating, listless, and vomiting. He instantly realized she was overheating, and rushed to cool her off. Fortunately all was well, but I share this so that you can be aware that overheating happens, and it doesn’t take very long.
Fortunately, you can prevent overheating. Make sure you don’t put too many warm layers of clothing on baby. Also, avoid blankets that are too warm or thick. If your baby is sweating, remove some of his clothing.
Swaddle blankets also need to be properly wrapped to keep baby from pulling the blanket over his face. Additionally, swaddles should not be so tight they constrict breathing (3).
Newborn Sleep Surface Don’ts
Babies need a sleep area that is clear of any possible hazards. Keep baby’s bed simple and free of soft bedding. Avoid pillows, toys, stuffed animals, or positioning wedges in the crib or bassinet. Crib bumpers also pose a suffocation hazard, so it’s best to exclude them from your nursery decor.
As an alternative to loose blankets in which a baby could become entangled, consider dressing your little one in a wearable blanket if the temperature is cool.
Car seats and other sitting devices such as strollers or swings are not recommended for routine sleep at home, especially for young infants. They place baby in a more upright position that risks tilting the head forward and blocking baby’s airway (3).
Statistically, it is safest for baby to sleep in a crib or bassinet alone, independent of mom or dad. For babies under 3 months of age, research has found that sleeping on sofas significantly increases babies chance of SIDS or other sleep-related deaths. Be sure to avoid falling asleep with baby or placing baby to sleep on the sofa or other soft surfaces, such as a waterbed or armchair (3,4).
Other Tips for a Safe Night Sleep
In addition to safe clothing and sleeping surfaces, there are a few other tips you can implement to ensure that your newborn has a safe night sleep:
- Put baby to sleep using a pacifier
- Avoid smoking around baby
- Breast-feeding your baby is associated with a lower incidence of SIDS
- Keep baby’s room well ventilated
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(1) Hockenberry, Marilyn., Wilson, David. (2011). Wong’s Nursing Care of Infants and Children. Elsevier, St. Louis, MO. pgs 542-543.
(2) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics, Volume 128, Number 5.
(3) Moon, R. Y. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx
(4) Rechtman, L., Colvin, J., Blair, P., Moon, R. (2014). Sofas and Infant Mortality. Peadiatrics, Nov, Volume 134, Issue 5.