Let sleeping dogs lie is good advice; even better advice, let sleeping babies lie. As long as they are sleeping in a safe place that is. Of course, all parents want their babies to be safe but sometimes we don’t know about certain risks or potential problems with sleeping spaces. Or perhaps it’s confusing when grandparents give ages-old respected advice that is now outdated.
A wise grandma will believe in the validity of her advice because a) it worked for her. b) her kids survived and thrived c) generations of kids were raised that way, sleep in those settings and so on.
But the importance of being aware of hazardous places for babies to sleep will help you to avoid SIDS and unnecessary injury. At the end of the day, all mothers want their babies to be safe, and armed with a little knowledge they can help their babies stay that way.
Babies sleep away a big chunk of their day (and hopefully) night. It’s an important aspect of infant health and a key to growing up and growing strong. Learning about the best sleeping environments for little ones is just one aspect of sleep safety; it’s also vital to know about things that are potentially dangerous for babies while they slumber.
Some of the places on this list may not be obvious to new parents as a sleep hazard for their little one. Especially when they see pictures in catalogues and on the internet of babies sleeping in these places.
15 The Dangers Of Sleeping In The Carseat
Who doesn’t know or soon find out that many youngsters who fight sleep quickly lose the battle when strapped into the carseat with the rhythmic whirr and vibration of the car engine. Some desperate parents have even gotten up in the night to take Junior on a late night cruise through the neighborhood.
That’s possibly a bad precedent to set up, but certainly a safe choice. What isn’t safe is bringing baby inside from the car ride and leaving the infant strapped into the carseat. Some folks will just gently carry baby inside and put him or her down on the floor. Others may even set the carseat with dozing baby in the crib.
The problem is with a risk referred to as “container syndrome.” Research has revealed that this practice of leaving baby in a carseat leads to an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
14 Allowed To Sleep In Infant Swing
Not all babies have swings as part of their baby equipment, but for harried parents, an automatic infant swing can be more than a boon, and border more on a lifesaver. For cranky colicky newborns a swing may soothe a set of frayed nerves, whether infant’s or Mom’s, and may help baby transition to sleep.
There’s nothing wrong with using a swing in that way. What is problematic is using the swing as a bed. In other words, swings are temporary diversions and calming devices but aren’t meant to be used as alternative sleep environments. Another issue can arise when babies are put in swings past the size or age limit for the swing.
When a baby weighs beyond the limits, or is able to sit up somewhat independently, the weight may be shifted in such a way as to create an imbalance and possibly topple.
13 Infants In A Waterbed Or Air Mattress
Never, ever put an infant on a waterbed. There are no loopholes or exceptions for this one. Waterbeds are soft, squishy and have lots of spaces where baby can become wedged and suffocate. Similar concerns apply to air mattresses. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2002 and 2007, 16 deaths were attributed to air mattresses.
Of those, 11 suffocated while on their stomachs, while the other 5 died due to suffocating after slipping between gaps between the mattress and frame or the mattress and a wall or furniture. It doesn’t matter whether a parent or caregiver is with the baby on the air or waterbed, either.
It only takes a moment for children to become wedged in the gaps or find themselves face down on the soft, squishy mattresses. If traveling or visiting friends, parents should consider investing in a travel or portable crib with a good safety record. To see recommendations, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
12 Sleeping In The Parents' Bed
There’s a big controversy over whether letting babies sleep in their parents’ beds is dangerous or not. Experts dispute the studies and numbers, and factors involved so deciding whether to share a bed with a baby is not a simple decision. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing rather than bed-sharing.
Should you decide to follow the advice of family bed proponents, there are some caveats agreed to by professionals on both sides of the controversy. First, it’s important for baby to never sleep between parents. Also, baby must not have blankets, pillows or other soft materials around them or under them.
Parents should never share a bed with baby if they’ve been drinking, used drugs including prescription or over-the-counter medications that cause drowsiness. Make sure long hair is tied back and no strings or ties from nightgowns are near baby. Also, using a guardrail or co-sleeper to protect baby from rolling off the baby is important.
11 Secondhand Cribs Or Cribs With Hazards
Thinking of using that family heirloom crib that everyone from Grandpa Fred to little second Cousin Sophia slept in? Think again. According to the CPSC no one should use any crib that is a decade or older, no matter how treasured or loved by family. Also, it’s imperative to make certain the slats are no more than 2-3/8 inches or 6 centimeters apart.
If using an older crib, make sure there are no worn or wobbly parts, exposed screws or flaking finish. You shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib. Also, side rails need to be fixed, not adjustable. If there are cut outs in the headboard they may pose an entrapment hazard.
Additionally, if there are posts, they need to be even with the headboard, or taller than 16 inches. Finally, make certain the crib mattress is firm enough, and springs back to pressure; too soft mattresses have been linked to SIDS deaths.
10 Bassinet and Cradle
Bassinets, cradles and Moses baskets are adorable baby sleeping options, but paying attention to the individual guidelines for use is absolutely essential. Most, if not all, have definite weight and/or age limits. The CPSC had 426 reports, 132 of which were fatalities, related to cradles and bassinets between November 2007 and March 2013.
The CPSC warns parents not to use these items beyond a baby’s fifth month of life. Consumer Reports also advises that parents use the locking mechanism to prevent rocking if they leave the room. They also state parents should be careful about never placing the cradle/bassinet near stairs, or around an older, unsupervised sibling.
It’s important not to move a bassinet with the baby inside. Also never use a different mattress or sheet than the ones made specifically for that model; a perfect fit is necessary for safety.
9 Using Couch, Beanbag Or Sheepskin
Many people fall asleep with little ones in their arms, all curled up comfy on the couch. However, that’s definitely a no-no. A study published in Pediatrics looked at infant deaths from 2004 to 2012 and found that nearly 13 percent of sleep-related baby deaths were associated with couches. Those deaths over the 8 year period totaled over 1000 children.
A lot of parents might think, “Well, I’m sleeping beside the baby so he/she will be safe.” Think again. According to the same study, sharing the sofa with another person increased the likelihood of a sleep death. A related hazard is sleeping on beanbag furniture.
According to the Sids and Kids website, beanbags are unsafe for babies and young children, as for one problem, they pose a suffocation and choking hazard should a child come in contact with the small polystyrene foam beads. They also are a too-soft surface to be safe for baby sleep.
8 Sleeping With Bigger Siblings
It may seem safer on some levels for a baby to sleep with older siblings. After all, they weigh far less than adults and surely that would negate some risk, right? Absolutely not. One reason is that new moms and dads seem to have a heightened sense around their new infants, and will not sleep as heavy as they normally do.
They tend to wake me with slight sounds and movements, and seem in tune with baby. Even with that, tragedies have occurred. Whether a newborn would have died of SIDS whether in the crib or beside a sleeping parent is something that typically can’t be answered and the burden of grief and guilt is overwhelming for such parents.
How much worse for a child to endure the questions and confusion over the death of a younger sibling, sleeping beside them in bed? No parent should want to even risk the possibility of that happening.
7 Pets In The Bedroom
Americans are pet obsessed. According to the 2015-2016 APPA Pet Owners Survey, 65 percent of US homes have pets. And a startling number of those consider Fluffy a full-fledged family member. For those who were “pet parents” before real human parents, the drive to integrate the human and pet household members is strong.
But in many cases that isn’t necessarily a simple, or sometimes even safe, process. Some pets are just not baby friendly, no matter how loving they seem to their owners. Pet experts offer plenty of tips for preparing pets for babies, but experts such as Cesar Milan recommend one non-negotiable: the nursery is off-limits.
Pets should be kept out of the baby’s room at all times. That is a no-go zone for Fluffy and Spike. It’s imperative a parent supervise all baby-pet interaction and if pets are allowed in baby’s room especially at night or naps, that isn’t happening.
6 Temperatures-Too Hot Or Too Cold
Babies cannot regulate their own body temperatures so it’s a parent’s responsibility to ensure a comfortable temperature in baby’s sleeping area. Babies lose heat four times more rapidly than an adult and for preemie or low-birth weight infants with less body fat, the rate is even faster. When newborns are cold, they use up energy and thereby oxygen to produce heat.
Even just one degree drop from the perfect 97.7 degree skin temperature will raise baby’s oxygen use 10 percent. However, cold temperatures aren’t the only threats to baby’s health. Being over bundled or too warm has been suggested as a risk factor of SIDS. For that reason, medical professionals recommend never covering baby’s head or face when sleeping. Look for signs of overheating, such as flushed skin or damp hair.
Check baby’s chest to see if it is comfortably warm, not hot or cold. Fingers and toes are not good indicators of baby’s temp.
5 Using Bumper Pads, Blankets And Stuffed Animals
We’ve all seen the beautiful, idyllic baby nurseries, complete with matching sheets, crib bumpers and rugs. Stuffed animals, hand-sewn pillows and heirloom quilts and blankets. It’s lovely to look at, but terribly dangerous to infants. A critical SIDS risk is any soft bedding.
Parents want to protect babies from bumping their heads against the crib rails, so they think it natural to place a fluffy bumper pad on the interior of the crib to cushion baby’s bumps and falls. But babies must never sleep with fluffy bedding, blankets or stuffed toys of any kind.
If a newborn baby seems to enjoy swaddling, that’s different and doable, as long as it’s certain the blanket will not come loose and potential end up around baby’s face. Make sure baby is dressed in a blanket sleeper, rather than with a blanket or quilt. A simple fitted sheet on baby’s bed, with perhaps a thin mattress pad on top is sufficient bedding.
4 Parents Are Smokers
Smoking is bad; we all know it. Lighting up in pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth and the likelihood of SIDS. However, sharing a household with a smoker also greatly increases the risks of SIDS in babies. Exposure to tobacco means the baby will rouse from sleep less, and babies need to be able to easily rouse in order to gasp, choke and breathe.
Babies’ lungs are still developing and are especially vulnerable to damage from secondhand smoke toxins. Babies who share the same sleeping area with a smoker have an increased risk of SIDS, even if the smoker never has a cigarette in bed.
Studies have also shown a direct correlation between the amount of tobacco smoke and the higher the risk of SIDS occurring, meaning the more a smoker smokes, the worse the odds for SIDS in an infant. Smoking is probably the easiest and most direct way to decrease the SIDS risk in babies.
3 Sleeping Near Cords, Strings Or Blinds
Some dangers to babies hide within plain view; many of them are around windows. Infants’ cribs should never be in close proximity to a window with dangling blind or curtain cords. Other possible hazards include electrical cords from things such as fans, baby monitors or humidifiers.
Other strangulation dangers include mobiles, so those should be out of reach at all times. As baby grows, so does a child’s reach so it’s a good idea to err on the side overestimating a baby’s reach. While many blind makers have instituted changes to address strangulation dangers, it’s unwise to rely on those. There have been a number of recalls, and it’s best to keep baby’s bed away from any possible contact with cords.
Also, pay attention to baby’s clothing to make certain there are no threads or strings. Pacifier holders on long lanyards are dangerous, as well. If baby loses a pacifier, have a back up nearby.
2 Sleeping In The Baby Sling Or Front Carrier
Babywearing is such a big phenomena that it actually became a verb. In 2010 the CPSC issued an advisory about baby slings, citing 14 deaths over the previous 20 years. The CPSC noted of the reported deaths, 12 were infants under 4 months old.
It’s believed these children are more at risk due to weak neck muscles in that age group, and how the fabric of the carrier can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, impeding breathing. It only takes a couple minutes to suffocate a child in this way. Also, a curled up position with chin on chest will already cause the breathing pathways to be obstructed.
Other factors connected to death include low birth weight, premature birth, being a twin or having a respiratory illness. The December 2015 issue of European Journal of Pediatrics noted 19 cases of children dying in baby carriers, and recognized being under 3 months of age as the greatest risk factor.
1 Paint Fumes
For parents wanting to spruce up the paint in the nursery, there are serious factors to consider in what paint to use and the timing of the make-over. Researchers from Kalstad University in Sweden and Harvard University found that children whose rooms had paint and solvent fumes were 2 to 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with allergies and asthma.
The compounds responsible in the paints are PGEs or propylene glycol and glycol ethers. Of the hundreds of compounds studied only PGEs showed strong links to allergy and asthma in children, and unfortunately they widely used. Even worse, the compounds are airborne and may remain in the air for months or possibly years.
If painting the nursery, parents should investigate paints to find brands free of PGEs or other toxic substances. Or they should consider an alternative such as milk based paint or wallpaper borders.