Safe Infant Sleep
A pregnant mother and her mother, soon to be a grandmother, walk into a baby’s nursery at home. A crib is in the room.
Mother: Well, it’s just a start. We have a lot of decorating to do to make it just right.
|The grandmother gestures toward the crib.
||Grandmother: Oh, it’s so sunny and bright. It’s perfect! And you already have the crib.
|The mother and grandmother continue talking. The mother gestures to one side of the room.
||Mother: So, here’s my idea—I want to put a low bookshelf over there and get a rocking chair, so when she gets older I can read to her while she’s falling asleep.
|The grandmother pulls out her smartphone and shows it to the mother.
||Grandmother: Now look what I just got…
Mother: Pretty fancy, Mom. Want me to show you how to use it?
Grandmother: Are you kidding? I got this thing all figured out. I even have your baby pictures on here already.
|The smartphone displays a picture of a baby lying on her stomach in a crib with a blanket on top of her. It looks like an old scanned photo, and a date stamp reads 3/29/85.
||Grandmother: Look how cute you were here sleeping with the blanket Nana made.
|Mother and grandmother continue to talk.
||Mother: You know, today we don’t put blankets in the crib no matter how cute they are. And, we have to lay the baby down to sleep on their back, every time.
Grandmother: Today… Don’t be silly—a baby’s got to stay warm! You don’t want your baby to get cold. And I always put you on your tummy.
Mother: Mom, this is important. You’ve heard of SIDS, right?
Grandmother: Oh, yes. That’s when a baby dies unexpectedly during sleep and doctors can’t find an explanation.
Mother: Right. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. At our birthing classes, we learned there are a lot of different things we need to do to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death, such as accidental suffocation.
|Flashback to a birthing and infant care class. The mother and father are seated with a group of other parents. They are listening to the instructor, who has a crib and some baby clothes set at the front of the classroom.
||Instructor: Now for most of you, this is your first baby. And you might think that putting the baby to sleep in a crib is as easy as just sticking them in there. Remember this, safety starts with getting a safe crib, but there’s a lot more to it. Before you put the baby in it, who knows what goes in a crib?
|The mother raises her hand and answers the question, then the father and other classmates answer.
||Mother: I know, a sheet.
Father: A blanket?
Classmate 1: Soft bumpers.
Classmate 2: A teddy bear.
Instructor: One of you is right, and the rest are (buzz) wrong. Over the past 20 years, researchers have learned a lot about safe infant sleep.
|The instructor holds up a fitted sheet next to the crib.
||Instructor: Besides the baby, a fitted sheet in a safety-approved crib is the only thing you need. No loose bedding, no bumpers...
|The instructor removes a pillow and teddy bear from inside the crib and takes away a blanket that was draped over the side of the crib.
||Instructor: …no pillows, no teddy bears, and no blankets.
Classmate 1: So how does the baby stay warm?
Instructor: Good question.
|The instructor holds up a one-piece legged sleeper and a sleep sack, which has sleeves but is sewn together at the bottom.
||Instructor: A one-piece sleeper like this or like this is all the baby needs at sleep time. What you dress the baby in should be appropriate for the room’s temperature.
Classmate 1: But my grandmother just crocheted us a baby blanket.
Instructor: I’m sure it’s beautiful. And you can use it to decorate your baby’s room, just not inside or draped on the crib. And remember, it’s been a long time since you were born, so your parents and grandparents may not know all the most recent safe sleep recommendations.
|A young woman walks into the classroom holding a baby in a one-piece legged sleeper. The class smiles at the baby.
Instructor: Oh, look who it is—our special guest baby Juliana.
[CLASS INTERJECTS “AWW!”]
I see you already have her in a one-piece sleeper.
|The woman lowers the baby into the crib and places her on her back. The baby kicks her feet in the air. The teacher addresses the class.
||Instructor: Now when she’s tired, and you’ve soothed her, you’ll lower her down into the crib. The important thing is that your baby is always put down to sleep on his or her back. Around 4 to 6 months, babies start rolling over on their own, and that’s fine; you don’t need to turn the baby back over. Just remember to always put the baby down on his or her back at sleep time—and that goes all the way until the baby is 1-year-old.
|Classmate 1 holds her belly, looking worried, and asks the instructor a question.
The mother and Classmate 1 nod their heads in agreement.
||Classmate 1: But what if she spits up or something? Couldn’t she choke?
Instructor: Actually, there is no evidence that babies are more likely to choke if placed on their backs for sleep.
||Instructor: So, you should feel confident that putting a baby to sleep on his or her back, every sleep time, is the safest thing to do.
|End flashback. The mother and grandmother walk into a bedroom. The mother points to a baby’s bassinet placed next to the adult bed.
||Mother: Check it out. Marco brought home this bassinet to keep in our bedroom. For the first couple of months, the baby will sleep right here in our room next to where we sleep.
Grandmother: Oh no, jelly bean, you’re gonna want that baby sleeping right next to you in bed for those feedings through the night.
Mother: Actually, that’s another thing we learned in our class. It’s best to breastfeed. It reduces the risk of SIDS, and of course, has other health benefits, too. But, they also told us that if we bring the baby into bed to breastfeed, it’s important to make sure to put the baby in a separate sleep area—a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or play yard—right next to where we’re sleeping to help with feeding through the night. Our instructor said that bed sharing actually increases baby’s risk for SIDS, not to mention increasing the baby’s chance of suffocating or being fatally injured. This could happen if one of us rolls on top of the baby, or if the pillows or bedding get on top of the baby, or if the baby gets trapped between the walls and the bed.
|The grandmother is nodding and listening, but still looks skeptical.
||Mother: Mom, listen, they told us that doing these things I’m talking about reduces the risk for SIDS and accidental suffocation. It’s safer for my baby.
Grandmother: I don’t know why things have to change all the time. According to you, I seem to have done everything wrong, but you and Ritchie still turned out fine.
|The mother puts her hand on the grandmother’s shoulder and gives her a serious look.
||Mother: Mom, you did a good job with us, and we did turn out fine. But you know, babies in families we don’t even know died during sleep time. Since doctors have been telling people about the latest safe infant sleep practices, a lot fewer babies have died from SIDS—about half as many. And if making simple changes, like not using a blanket or laying the baby on her back will keep your granddaughter safer, you’ll want to do it, right?
|The grandmother touches the mother on the arm. The mother smiles.
||Grandmother: You sure are developing a mother’s instinct, honey. I know things change. I’ll do it the new way. Because my new granddaughter is gonna grow up to be an amazing woman, just like her mother.
|The grandmother’s smartphone rings, and she takes it out of her pocket.
||[SOUND OF SMARTPHONE RINGING]
Grandmother: It’s your father!
|The grandfather is seen on the smartphone’s screen. The grandmother holds the phone up so they can video chat.
||Grandfather: Hi ladies!
Mother: Hey Dad! I was just showing mom the baby stuff.
|The grandfather holds up a fact sheet on the smartphone screen.
||Grandfather: Sorry to interrupt the tour, but I just found some great new info on safe sleep for infants.
Mother: That’s great, Dad!
|The mother nudges the grandmother, and they smile at each other.
||Mother: Actually, Mom was just telling me about the latest safe infant sleep recommendations.
Fade to Dr. Catherine Spong on camera, in her office. Her title appears on screen as Catherine Spong, MD, OB/GYN, National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Catherine Spong: Here at the National Institutes of Health, we’re always working to learn more about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, and other sleep-related causes of infant death. Over the past 20 years, we’ve learned a lot, and health education has led to a 50-percent decrease in SIDS in the United States. But unfortunately, there are still babies dying. So it’s very important for everyone to know how to make the infant’s sleep environment safe to reduce the chance of infant sleep death, such as SIDS or accidental suffocation, from happening. That means telling grandmothers, friends, babysitters—anyone who is caring for an infant—and making sure they understand how important it is to follow safe sleep recommendations. We want to make sure that everyone knows that the baby should be placed on his or her back to sleep for every sleep time—including nap time.
|A mother places her baby on her back in a crib.
||Dr. Spong: The baby should be placed on a firm sleep surface with nothing else in the sleep area.
|A crib with a blanket, stuffed toy, and pillow is shown. A woman removes the toy, blanket, and pillow from the crib.
||Dr. Spong: No toys or soft objects, no blankets or loose bedding, and no pillows.
|Dr. Spong speaks to the camera again, then the video shows the mother’s bassinet next to the bed.
||Dr. Spong: And that the baby should sleep in the same room with the parent, but not in the same bed.
|Dr. Spong speaks to the camera again.
||Dr. Spong: As a mother of four, I know it can be a challenge to help the grandparents and other caregivers understand the importance of learning today’s safe infant sleep practices, and doing them every time. But taking the time to teach these things can make all the difference.
Safe to Sleep logo.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services logo.
NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development logo.
Dr. Spong: For more information, please visit the Safe to Sleep® website at safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov.