November 12, 2023 // by Dr. Priya Prashad

Good sleep is essential for the healthy growth and development of your child. Pediatric and adult sleep medicine expert Dr. Priya Prashad shares ways you can create a safe sleep environment and establish good sleeping habits.

What is SIDS? 

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a healthy-appearing baby less than a year old. SIDS can occur anytime during a baby's first year of life. It rarely occurs after one year. The risk of SIDS appears to peak between two and four months of age and decreases after six months. 
  • Although the causes of SIDS are still largely unknown, SIDS is thought to be associated with problems in the ability to arouse from sleep and to detect low levels of oxygen or a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. When babies sleep face down, they may re-breathe exhaled carbon dioxide. Since we don’t know the exact cause of why this happens to some babies, it is best to take as many steps as possible to prevent it. A safe sleep environment lowers the risk of all sleep-related deaths.

9 sleep safety tips for newborns and how to prevent SIDS

  1. Babies under the age of one should be put to sleep on their back instead of their side or stomach until they can roll over on their own.
  2. Dress your baby in light sleep clothes such as a sleep sack. 
  3. Do not put toys, stuffed animals, pillows, or blankets in the crib with a child under one year of age.
  4. Put your baby to sleep on a flat mattress in an enclosed surface such as a bassinet, playpen, or crib with a sheet that fits snugly.
  5. Instead of bed sharing, room share with your baby. This means keeping your baby's sleep area in the same room (but not in the same bed) where you sleep for at least the first 6 months. Place your baby's crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard in your bedroom, close to your bed. The AAP recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%, and it's much safer than bed sharing. Room sharing will also make it easier for you to feed, comfort, and watch your baby.
  6. When taking your baby out to feed during the night, sit upright in a sturdy chair instead of the bed or a soft recliner and return them to their crib after feeding.
  7. Burp your baby and hold them upright for several minutes after feeding before putting them back into the crib to sleep. Do not place a bottle in their crib or allow them to fall asleep while drinking laying down. 
  8. If your baby falls asleep in their stroller or car seat, monitor them to ensure their airway is not obstructed. Avoid their head slumping over or their chin resting on their chest.
  9. Make sure there are no loose straps that can trap an infant’s head or neck. Ensure straps are properly adjusted.

Safety tips for transitioning from a crib to a bed

  • The best time to make the transition is when your child expresses interest. Try not to make the change based on the experience of others or external pressure (ex, a new baby coming) but when your child is ready and asks.
    • Your child may use a crib longer than others if they are smaller.
    • If your child is consistently climbing out of their crib and risks injuring themselves, they may move into a big kid bed earlier. 
  • To make the transition as smooth as possible, avoid making the switch during other major transitions (ex, potty training, starting preschool, moving, or the arrival of a new baby).
  • Consider side rails for both sides of the bed, even if it is up against the wall. Toddlers can get accidentally stuck between the bed and the wall.
  • Make sure you have a consistent bedtime routine before you make the crib-to-bed transition, and keep that routine.
  • Give a lot of positive reinforcement to your child for sleeping in the new bed.

How to tell if your child is getting enough sleep?

  • Infants 4 to 12 months: 12-16 hours, including naps
  • Toddlers 1–2 years: 11–14 hours, including naps
  • Preschool 3–5 years: 10–13 hours, including naps
  • School-age 6–13 years: 9–12 hours
  • Teens 14–17 years: 8–10 hours

Signs that your child is not getting enough sleep

  • Daytime crankiness, moodiness, and irritability
  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention in school
  • Temper tantrums, hyperactive behavior
  • Still appearing very sleepy when waking up in the morning
  • Daytime naps after age 6

Good sleep is vital for physical and mental health at every age. Dr. Prashad treats children and adults with a wide range of sleep-related conditions. If you or your child are having trouble sleeping, call 914-614-4260 to find out how BCHP can help.