A Quick Guide to Safe Baby Sleep—Plus 3 Top Product Picks From a Pediatrician

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines safe sleep guidelines for babies, aiming to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Recommendations include placing babies on their backs in their own sleep space, avoiding soft items, using a firm mattress, and breastfeeding. Choosing safe sleep products is crucial, with staples including a crib and fitted bedding, a pacifier, and a swaddle.

Sleep is a hot-button topic for new parents—for good reason. In the early days of parenting, there’s little sleep to be had.

Babies need (and get) a lot of sleep, though their sleep needs don’t quite line up with the leep needs of adults.

Ask someone about baby sleep? It can seem that you get a different answer everywhere you turn.

Here are three expert-backed tips to consider, including recommendations for safe baby products to use during sleep.

Create a safe sleep environment

In the US, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) ‘Safe Sleep’ guidelines on how to put babies to sleep, sleep environments, and sleep products are the gold standard when it comes to keeping babies safe during sleep.

In large, that’s because the group’s suggested practices reduce the risk of a condition called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is responsible for approximately 3,500 deaths a year.

The below recommendations from the AAP can reduce the risk of sleep-related infant death:

  • Place infants on their backs for sleep in their own sleep space with no other people.
  • Use a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard with a firm, flat mattress and a fitted sheet. Avoid sleep on a couch, armchair, or in a seating device, like a swing or car safety seat (except while riding in the car).
  • Keep loose blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, bumpers, and other soft items out of the sleep space.
  • Breastfeed if possible and avoid smoking.

The AAP also recommends room sharing—aka having your baby’s crib or bassinet in your room—for at least the first six months of the baby’s life.

Think through bed-sharing

The AAP doesn’t recommend bed-sharing with babies, noting that the practice can increase the risk of SIDS and pose dangers to infants.

Yet, according to some data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 61% of parents report bed-sharing with their baby.

The AAP’s safe sleep guidelines matter and have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS—but it’s also important to remember that babies sleep and have slept in different ways all over the world for millions of years.

Many parents who bedshare utilize the ‘Safe Sleep 7’—a guideline of practices that includes breastfeeding, not smoking, placing a baby on their back on a firm mattress, and having “no soft mattress, no extra pillows, no toys, no tight or heavy covers” as well as a sleeping environment that’s “clear of strings and cords” with “gaps firmly filled.”

Know how to choose safe baby sleep products

Beyond creating a safe sleep environment for your baby, you also want to be sure you’re choosing safe sleep products. But you’ve likely noticed that there are allllll kinds of products marketed around infant sleep; choosing which baby sleep products to use can feel overwhelming.

Ashanti Woods, MD, a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says that when choosing any sleep product for your baby, “the goal and intention should be for safety.”

That’s why, before picking any product, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website and check any product you’re considering using during sleep.

“This is significant as products are recalled regularly,” says Woods. “We the consumers, often assume that a product is safe when we buy it from a reputable store—but this list changes, and what was safe in January may be no longer safe in July. Check this list regularly and fill out the consumer cards to get notifications for your baby products.”

From there? Know that while it may seem like there are endless sleep products for babies out there, these three are simple staples of safe sleep, according to experts.

  • A crib and fitted bedding. “Babies should sleep on a firm surface,” says Woods. “Firm simply means the surface does not indent when baby’s body weight is placed on it. If a baby sleeps in a crib with a crib mattress, a fitted sheet is the only ‘bedding’ or ‘linen’ in the crib. Babies should not have blankets, bumpers, or stuffed animals in the crib.” Buy: Saatva’s
    double-sided nontoxic crib mattress
    saatva crib mattress
    Crib Mattress

    Our dual-sided nontoxic crib mattress for little ones

    ($355), which comes with a breathable, removable, and washable cover and Saatva’s organic cotton crib sheet pair ($79)
  • A pacifier. “Pediatricians endorse the use of pacifiers as they decrease the risk for SIDS,” says Woods. Just remember not to attach the pacifier to any portion of your baby’s clothing; that could pose a risk of strangulation, he notes. Buy: Parent favorite Philips Avent Soothie pacifier ($12 for four), made from BPA-free silicone; it’s used in hospitals nationwide
  • A swaddle. These products or cloths used to wrap infants are a proven method to help babies sleep a little bit longer, says Woods. If you swaddle, make sure your baby isn’t overheating (sweating while bundled), make sure the swaddle isn’t too tight (your baby’s legs should still be comfortably in the “frog-leg” position), and make sure your baby isn’t too old to be swaddled (when a baby can roll from their back onto their stomach, they’re too old to be in the swaddle), notes Woods. Buy: If you deliver in a hospital, you’ll likely receive some swaddling blankets that you can use to wrap your baby tightly. For a specific swaddling product, consider Happiest Baby’s Sleepea swaddle ($15), a top-rated swaddle that’s made with 100% organic cotton and has versatile features like a velcro strap, a two-way zipper, and arm openings.

Choose the best crib mattress for your baby

Crib Mattress

This dual-sided crib mattress is designed with the safety and unique sleep needs of babies and toddlers in mind. Handcrafted with natural, nontoxic materials for healthy sleep.


What is the safest thing for a baby to sleep in?

Babies should sleep on a flat, firm crib mattress inside a crib or bassinet, with a fitted sheet. There should be no blankets, bumpers, or stuffed animals in the crib.

Check out more helpful content for parents and families from Cassie Shortsleeve:

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