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Tips for Balancing Warm Sleep with Infant Safe Sleep

This winter may be particularly difficult for some families with infants

This winter may be particularly difficult for some families with infants, as they face plummeting temperatures and rising heating costs and wonder how to keep their baby warm yet in a safe sleep environment.

Under guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has been credited with cutting the rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by more than 50% since 1994, babies should have their own sleep space with a firm and flat mattress and no blankets, bumpers, pillows or other loose bedding that could lead to accidental suffocation or strangulation. This sleep space should be in the same bedroom as the parents but not in the same bed.

“The good news is that it’s actually possible to follow infant safe sleep practices and keep baby warm during sleep,” said Alison Jacobson, executive director and CEO of First Candle, which works to reduce SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. “There are some things to remember and simple actions that parents and caregivers can take.”

  • Babies overheating increases the risk of SIDS. Although the AAP does not recommend a specific room temperature, it is generally accepted that 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit is a comfortable range.
  • Do not place the baby near any direct room heating source or use a hot-water bottle in the crib, as this could make them too warm. Babies are still in the process of regulating their temperatures and do not sweat to the degree adults do.
  • Another reason why babies should not bedshare: Adjacent bodies throw off heat and could make their sleep environment too warm, even on a chilly night.
  • If you feel the room is too cold, dress your baby in layers, such as a onesie under pajamas, and socks. Do not use a hat for sleep; this can lead to overheating and is best used when baby is awake or outside. If you are using an infant sleep sack, remember that this counts as a layer. Do not use a blanket or any loose covering.
  • To see if your baby is getting too warm, understand that their hands and feet may generally always feel cool. If their chest or the back of their neck is becoming clammy, they may be getting too warm and should shed a layer of clothing.
  • Babies should always sleep on their backs in a smoke-free environment.

“Winter can bring on an additional set of challenges for families with infants, especially in this current economic and health climate,” Jacobson said. “So it may be helpful for parents to know there are things they can do, and to check with their pediatricians or other health care providers if they have questions.”

Households having difficulties covering heating costs may also consider looking into initiatives such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

For more information on how to prevent sleep-related infant death, visit firstcandle.org.

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