Newborn baby sleeping.

A sleeping baby. Ahhh. Few things make a new mama happier. You do everything you can to help create a safe and comfortable sleep space for your newborn. The good news is most parents are now correctly placing their infants on their backs in their crib or bassinet. The not-so-good news is about half are still unknowingly using potentially unsafe crib bedding.

Beware of Soft Objects in Your Baby's Crib

A nice soft blanket and fluffy teddy bear may seem like the perfect way to make your baby's crib comfortable and comforting. But these soft items, along with quilts, pillows (including nursing pillows), and crib bumpers, can obstruct your baby's airway. This can lead to suffocation, and also increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Researchers from several institutions, including the National Institutes of Health, looked at 17 years of data from nearly 20,000 caregivers. Although the use of unsafe bedding has decreased substantially since a previous study in which 86 percent of infants were found to be at risk, the statistics are still too high.

5 Safe to Sleep Tips

Put your baby to sleep safely by following these five pointers.

  • Place your baby alone in the crib on his or her back.
  • Make sure the sleep surface is firm and covered by a fitted sheet.
  • Dress your baby in a one-piece sleeper (no blankets or hats) and keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
  • Don't use a bumper or place soft objects like stuffed animals in the crib.
  • Make sure there are no gaps larger than 2 fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress.

SIDS Rates Down But Suffocation Deaths Increasing

The rate of SIDS, the unexplained death of a child within the first year of life, has fallen 50 percent since 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics first recommended infants be put to sleep on their backs. Since 2000, however, there’s been an increase in other unexpected infant deaths from accidental suffocation, entrapment in bedding, and other causes.

It’s easy to avoid having such a tragedy happen in your home. Follow the Safe to Sleep recommendations and be confident you’re doing all you can to make sure your baby has a good night’s sleep.