A Healthy Sleep Environment for Babies

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Sleep Attire, Bedding and Room Temperature 

Babies spend much of their time sleeping and need a safe environment when they do. Beyond basic crib safety, parents need to consider sleep attire, bedding and room temperature.

What Should Baby Wear to Bed?

The main concerns surrounding sleep attire for babies are flammability and strangulation hazards.

  • Baby sleepwear should be fire-retardant. Fire-retardant fabrics are usually identified on labels and may be required by law in infants’ and children’s sleepwear, depending on where you live.
  • In general, loose, baggy sleepwear catches fire more easily than snug-fitting clothing and is not recommended for babies. If you use loose-fitting garments for sleeping, they should be made of polyester or nylon or polyester/nylon blends, because these fabrics burn more slowly than cotton. Snug-fitting garments can be made of cotton.
  • Use actual sleepwear for babies and not t-shirts or other daytime clothing. Sleepers are the best option because they are designed for sleep and, unlike daytime clothing, are usually fire-retardant.
  • Never place a baby to sleep in any garment with loose strings, like nightgowns or robes. Parents who co-sleep should also remove strings from their garments.
  • Buttons on clothing can present a choking hazard and should be avoided, or, at the very least, checked regularly to ensure they are secure. Buttons can also get tangled in the mesh sides of a playpen or mesh crib.
  • Loose threads on a baby’s garment can wrap around a baby’s finger or neck and cause injury.
  • Do not overdress a baby. A light undershirt and sleeper are sufficient for most babies. In very warm weather, less clothing is advised. The baby should never be sweating or hot to the touch, especially in the hands.
  • Bedding and room temperature, discussed below, also play a role in proper body temperature.

Bedding

Blankets and loose or soft bedding, like comforters, are a potential suffocation hazard. Dress a baby in a sleeper instead of using blankets. If you feel a blanket is necessary for warmth, use a light blanket and tuck it snugly along the sides of the mattress. Do not pull blankets any higher than chest level on the baby – a baby’s face should never be covered during sleep. Be sure that you do not tuck blankets so tightly that the baby cannot move.

  • Another bedding option is a baby sleep sack. These garments are designed with the safety of the baby in mind and offer warmth and a snuggly sleep without the risks of loose or excessively warm blankets. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for sleep sacks to ensure you have one with the appropriate weight/warmth rating.
  • Mattresses should always be firm and bottom sheets tucked tightly with no wrinkles.
  • Besides presenting a climbing hazard, stuffed animals collect dust which can affect babies with allergies.
  • Avoid items that prop babies on their side and claim they prevent SIDS. According to U.S. National SIDS/Infant Death Center, these items have not been adequately tested for safety.

Room Temperature and Environment

Overheating is thought to be a major contributor to SIDS, so do not try to make a baby’s room too warm. The basic guideline is that a baby can sleep safely in a room that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. The ideal temperature is between 61ºF (16ºC) and 68ºF (20ºC).

  • Never place heating pads, electric blankets or hot water bottles in a crib.
  • Do not position space heaters near a crib.

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