For most parents, parenting is a wonderful adventure that is dotted with many scary things. Even from those first two pink lines on the pregnancy tests, there is plenty to worry about. Is everything progressing correctly? Why am I not feeling baby kick a lot today? When will he be born? Is everything okay? Even after delivery, the worries keep coming, but that’s just part of the great responsibility to raise a child. After all, that little bit of worry keeps parents on their toes – making sure that baby is safe.
Sleep and babies don’t exactly go together like parents want them to; babies don’t always sleep when parents want them to or as long as parents want them to. Sometimes just the act of getting baby to sleep is as exhausting as an all uphill marathon. But there are many dangers in napping and it’s up to the parents to learn what those dangers are and how to avoid them. Does the thought of that scare you a little bit? It shouldn’t. Fear lessens when the problems are brought into the light and solutions are practiced.
This article isn’t intended to bring unwarranted fear into any parent’s life. This article also is not intended to judge or shame any parent who has (unintentionally) done any of these risky nap time behaviors. The point is to educate parents to know better and do better. Here are 15 dangers of putting baby down to sleep.
Any new mom (or heck, even the second and third time moms) knows what it’s like to wake up at night and constantly check to make sure that baby is breathing. SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is a scary, scary thing to any parent. SIDS makes naptime and bedtime terrifying.
SIDS occurs to seemingly healthy babies and usually occurs during sleep. Risk factors include brain defects (particularly a defect in the area of the brain that controls breathing), premature birth, low birth weight, and respiratory infection, sleeping on soft surfaces, or sleeping in a room that is too warm. Luckily, when it comes to nap time, there are a few ways to reduce the risk of SIDS such as always laying baby on his back to sleep and preventing baby’s room from getting too warm during bedtime. Pediatricians also recommend room sharing (which is not the same as sharing a bed); co-sleepers or bassinets are great options for room sharing.
14Just Say No….To Blankets
Often times SIDS and suffocation are interchanged but suffocation during nap time is not the same thing as SIDS. Pediatricians advise parents to not put babies down to sleep with any blankets or pillows until he is at least one year old. An infant can unwittingly scoot or wriggle around and cause the blanket to cover his face; without the right coordination, he can’t uncover his face. A pillow can also cause problems if baby rolls over onto the pillow face down or if the pillow somehow covers baby’s nose and mouth.
It seems so wrong to not tuck a baby in with a cozy blanket on a cold winter night so what is a parent to do? Opt for an all-in-one swaddler that velcros closed so baby cannot wriggle under a loose blanket. Footie PJ’s are another good option – plus who can resist shopping for baby footie jammies?
What seems more relaxing that hunkering down with a newborn on a comfy couch and binge watching a few (or a lot of) episodes of your favorite shows. This is particularly alluring for parents who are up at all hours of the time and are understandably exhausted during the day. Who can deny the comfort of a cuddle on the couch?
The problem with napping on couches is that a babe can roll in between the couch cushions, which is particularly problematic if the exhausted parent is zonked out. Getting wedged between the couch cushions is a major nap danger, but one that can be easily avoided. If you’re cuddling on the couch and start to feel drowsy, lay baby somewhere safe and then take a little snooze. Keep a bassinet or swing close to the couch and voila! Everyone has a happy nap time.
12They See Me Rollin’…
Let’s be real here for a minute: who hasn’t fallen off the bed at some point in his/her life? I know I have, and I have distinct memories of my sister rolling off her bed when she was five. Even my husband said he rolled off his bed when he was nine… granted, that was off of a top bunk (OMG!). The point is most people have rolled off the bed and usually it’s no big deal.
For a little bitty baby though, it is a big deal. A very big deal. They don’t exactly have the best coordination to try and soften the blow with their arms. Not to mention their head is super at risk for injury with the soft spots. Laying a baby down for a nap on an adult bed (especially near the edges of the bed) is a major risk factor for falling off and getting injured. Make sure baby is always sleeping in a baby-appropriate sleeping area like a crib, bassinet, rocker, or even a swing. This is one nap time tragedy that can be prevented.
11Just A Little Spit Up
As an expectant mom prepares for her bundle of joy, she quickly reads in all the baby books about the incredible amount of baby bodily fluids she’ll be dealing with soon. From the crazy newborn poop to drool, she’s going to have to deal with it all. Babies all spit up – some more than others – but it is a seemingly innocent part of babyhood.
Unless your baby has GERD or reflux, then you know that spit up isn’t such a minor issue. Unfortunately, reflux can cause a lot of problems for baby especially during nap time (ask me how I know!). The biggest worry for many parents of reflux babies is that reclining flat agitates the reflux, which then makes spit up a concern while napping. I constantly worried about my reflux baby spitting up in his sleep and choking on it. Many moms turn to naps in a non-recumbent position. Think: swings, naps while wearing baby in a baby carrier, etc.
10Carseats Are For Cars
Picture the scenario: after a busy day of errands – or even just on the ride home from daycare – baby falls asleep in the car, lulled to sleep by the soothing vibrations. Once arriving home, the parent brings in the baby but leaves him in the car seat to finish up the nap while the parent prepares dinner. It makes sense, right? Let sleeping babies sleep! Unfortunately, this is a big nap hazard.
While it’s perfectly fine to sleep in a car seat while properly buckled in a car, the situation changes once the car seat is out of the car. The angle of the car seat on a flat floor is not the same as the angle when it is installed into the base of the car seat. Unfortunately, one baby boy in Oklahoma died while at daycare because the provider left him sleeping unbuckled in his car seat. The angle and the fact that his head slumped forward caused his airway to be compromised. Never let your baby sleep in the car seat once you get home.
9Hips Don’t Lie
Remember how I mentioned that some moms turn to baby wearing for naps? Especially if laying down flat makes reflux symptoms worse? Well, there is a right way and a dangerous way to use a baby carrier for a nap, and it’s baby’s hips that are at risk.
Most new carriers position baby facing mom (or dad!) in the carrier. This position helps mom keep a better center of gravity, but it also helps keeps baby from getting too overstimulated, which is a good thing at naptime. Most importantly, however, facing mom keeps baby’s legs in an “M” shape or a froggy style, which helps prevent hip dysplasia. Most new carriers and carrier companies explain the importance of the froggy legs. However, older baby carriers promoted forward-facing which (unless there is a certain adaptation to the carrier) puts too much stress on baby’s lower limbs, increasing the risk of hip problems. I don’t know about you, but that does not sound like a restful way to nap. Keep babies facing in!
8Just Getting A Little Bit Of Fresh Air
I know I am not alone when I say that a cranky baby can usually be cured by a nice walk in the stroller, soaking up some fresh air. A stroller walk always helped my babies take naps if they had been fighting a nap that day. But once again, napping in a stroller can be risky too … but only if you don’t take a few precautionary steps.
Some caretakers are tempted to not take the baby out of the stroller once they return home with the notion to let baby sleep as long as possible. However, since a stroller doesn’t easily fit through the front door, sometimes baby is left in the yard in the stroller to finish up the nap. I can think of a million reasons why this is dangerous with kidnapping being #1 on that list. Birds pooping on your baby is on that list too. If you really want your baby to nap, then either keep walking or sit outside with your baby.
7When Good Pets Go Bad
I am not a cat person nor do I have a pet cat, but I know enough people with cats to tell you that when baby stuff starts entering a house, the cat is all over it. Especially the cribs. Did you know that there are even hacks to keep your cat out of the crib (like tin foil and mesh covers that over the top of the crib)? I even know people that set up their crib early just to make sure the cat had time to learn to not go in the crib.
So it’s not too surprising that a cat jumping in your sleeping baby’s crib would be on my list of naptime dangers. Cats are cats; who is to say that they won’t just step on baby or try to sleep on his head? (As a sleepover guest at a cat residence, I can tell you that cats have tried to sleep on my head many many times.) I don’t know about you but I don’t want a cat sleeping on my baby’s head. Call me a grouch or anti-cat, but that’s just not for me.
6Darned If You Do, Darned If You Don’t
Okay, we get it. Naptime can be nerve wracking. I mean, all of parenting can be nerve wracking and scary. So what do we do as parents? We try to follow the guidelines set out by the experts and we purchase the highest quality, safety-rated gear, and we try to keep our babies safe.
It’s extra frustrating then, that when we do follow all the instructions and recommendations that we still face risks! In particular, if a baby lays too much on his back, he can develop a flat spot on the back of his head. Obviously, you can’t let baby nap on his stomach so how can this be avoided?
While sleeping on the back is definitely the way to go, the flat spot can be avoided (or at least reduced) by incorporating lots of non-laying time throughout the day. This can be accomplished by supervised tummy time or wearing baby in a carrier. Even little bits of non-laying time throughout the day can help prevent flat spots. If you baby is at daycare, make sure to ask what their policy on this is.
5Chilling In The Swing
Babies love smooth, gentle motions; it’s the reason many babies love car rides. It makes sense, after all, since babies spend their first 40 weeks of existence being constantly rocked and swayed as mom moved throughout the day. This is also the reason many homes of babies house at least one infant swing – they can be a life saver for a fussy baby who always wants to be rocked.
Like any toy or piece of gear, swings too come with a warning for naptime. Swing-napping can be dangerous for two reasons. One, improperly buckled babies can slowly start to slide downward, which can both compromise their air but also cause risk for falling out. Two, it’s tempting to walk away from a sleeping baby to grab a shower or bite to eat, but babies should not be left unattended while in the swing. Ever.
Sleep is a hotly debated topic among the mommy forums. Co-sleeping, bedsharing, roomsharing, and separate nurseries: everyone seems to have an opinion what’s the best option. Although bedsharing tends to get a bad rap, those who swear by it say that mom is less tired and baby has an easier time nursing through the night.
However, it is interesting to note that sites that support bedsharing (meaning that they also teach families how to do it safely) never recommend that anyone besides a nursing mother sleep with baby. According to their research, nursing moms are more in tune with baby’s needs, making her more aware of baby’s presence. Even a dad doesn’t have that sort of body link to baby (no offense guys!). The point here is that unless you’re a nursing mother, sleeping with baby can be dangerous since you’re simply not aware that baby is there. The risk of a parent rolling over a baby is increased if the parent smokes, drinks, or does drugs.
I remember when I was kid, the baby monitors were audio-only and extremely noisy and static-filled. That market has completely changed since then; pop into any baby store and you’ll find a huge selection of baby monitors that get as good of reception and clarity as your HD TV. Seriously though, those bad boys come with a hefty price tag though.
Although this really isn’t something you want to skimp on, particularly if you have a big house or baby sleeps in a separate room. Not monitoring your baby while s/he is sleeping is a risk I’m not willing to take. Keeping baby monitored is especially helpful if baby starts to spit up or cough. It’s also nice because if baby starts to fuss, sometimes you get back in there and soothe baby before she wakes all the way up.
While you definitely don’t need the fanciest version, even today’s less expensive models are better than those old static-y ones.
2Sleeping Away A Cold
I know that when I’m sick, all I want to do is sleep, and guess what? Babies are no different. Sometimes increased amount of sleep is the first clue that baby’s little body is starting to fight off some cold. As a mom who has helped two kids sleep through many, many colds, I know that there are some extra steps to take to make napping during an illness safer and more comfortable.
If baby is super congested, then laying flat can make all of those respiratory symptoms feel worse, especially if there is that post-nasal drip going on. In order to help baby breathe easier and avoid extra coughing and sputtering, sleeping at a slight incline can help. Although, don’t just prop baby up with pillows. If you’re going to let her sleep at an incline, make sure to follow the safety guidelines of whatever rocker, swing, etc you use.
1Napping Near Smokers
We hear over and over how dangerous smoking is; there is even a warning label printed right on the box. Thankfully, lawmakers began banning smoking in public places to help spare the people who choose not to smoke. For example, as of July 2012, Indiana banned smoking in all public places. Yet, I know people still smoke in their own homes, which puts babies at risk for second hand smoke.
Second hand smoke increases the risk of SIDS (which usually occurs while baby is sleeping) as well as the risk of more respiratory problems. Even if no one smokes in your household, it’s a good practice to make sure that none of baby’s caretakers or babysitters smoke while caring for your baby. This isn’t about judging those who smoke; it’s about knowing better and doing better and taking care of the little ones who are under our care.
Sources: Mayoclinic.org, kfor.com, kellymom.com, in.gov, healthychildren.org
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