5 steps to a safe sleep environment for infants

The King County Medical Examiner and several Public Health staff, including experts in injury prevention and nursing, recently published an article in the King County Medical Society Bulletin that provides an important overview of sudden and unexpected infant deaths (SIDS/SUIDS).

While many factors may contribute to these unfortunate losses, this article stresses the role of a safe sleep environment in protection against SIDS/SUIDS. So what does that mean?

  1. safe sleep in crib
    Image via National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

    Share rooms, not beds. This one is extremely important because bed-sharing has been associated with more than half of the infant deaths reviewed by the King County Medical Examiner. Our experts tell us that babies may have difficulty regulating their body temperature and, when sharing a bed space, they can become overheated or suffocate from soft bedding or others in the bed. Bed-sharing is distinct from co-sleeping – it means that an infant is sleeping in the same bed as his or her parents or other family members rather than simply in the same room. Many families prefer to have their babies nearby at night, and room-sharing may actually help prevent infant death.

  2. Avoid soft sleep surfaces and loose bedding. Babies should be placed on their backs on a firm surface that is free of blankets, bumpers, quilts, stuffed animals, and pillows.
  3. Save strollers, car seats and swings for sitting only. It’s best to avoid using car seats for routine sleep outside of travel situations.
  4. Keep baby cool. Too many layers of clothing, blankets or a warm room temperature can cause babies to overheat. Babies should be dressed lightly for sleep and be kept in a room that is comfortable for a lightly dressed adult.
  5. If you swaddle, keep baby face up (on their back). Swaddling prevents babies from moving around, so make sure they are placed in a safe position.

 “While we don’t fully understand all infant deaths, we know measures can be taken to help prevent them,” said Dr. Richard Harruff, King County Medical Examiner. “Providing safe sleep environments – including placing an infant alone, in his or her own bed, on his or her back, and without any blankets or pillows – can help save lives.”

“Families expecting new babies and those caring for infants are encouraged to take advantage of resources offered by Public Health – Seattle & King County,” said Dr. Kyle Yasuda, Medical Officer for Children and Families. “Our nurses and experts can help families navigate this special, critical time period and offer support – including making sure all babies have a safe place to sleep.”

Baby bed boxes available through Public Health – Seattle & King County

If you or someone you know needs help setting up a safe sleep environment, our Public Health nurses are on the job – just call 206-205-8362. We are also continuing to distribute baby bed boxes, safe sleep spaces for babies that can work for nearly anyone, anywhere.