Medically Reviewed by Benjamin B. Elder, MD
Expectant parents, you can remove one of the greatest barriers to your new infant’s health by being ready before the baby comes home and, in some cases, even before pregnancy.
BEFORE THE BABY COMES HOME
- Understand the simple ABCs of Safe Sleep for your infant. Make sure they sleep Alone on their Back in the Crib. Why? The risk of SIDS increases when a baby is placed on his or her side or face in the crib, especially if swaddled.
- To prepare for the baby’s homecoming, buy a safe crib. Although it’s nice for families to “hand down” baby furniture, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions NOT to use a crib that’s more than 10 years old. Check the crib for broken slats.
- If it’s a new crib, follow the assembly instructions. (Here’s a basic rule of thumb: If you have lots of parts left over, you probably need to go back and re-read the instructions — or maybe read the instructions for the first time.) New or used, make sure your crib’s slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and that the crib meets new 2011 standards adopted by the US Consumer Protection and Safety Commission. These standards, the first new ones in 30 years, outlawed cribs with a drop side.
- Make sure the crib has a firm mattress. Avoid soft mattresses that the baby could sink into.
- Buy fitted sheets that are tight when the bed is made.
- Place the crib in your bedroom, within arm’s length. (It’s easy for Mom to reach the baby for breast-feeding.) You don’t want the baby sleeping in your bed, where you might fall asleep and roll over on the infant.
- Don’t buy bumpers for the crib. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no evidence that these bumpers can prevent injury while they add risk of strangulation or suffocation.
- Keep the crib for sleeping only. No stuffed animals, extra blankets or other items.
- Prepare the area around the crib, keeping any potential choking items out of baby’s reach — especially lamp, baby monitor, charger or window blind cords or wires.
- To keep your baby warm, use a sleep sack, which is basically a wearable blanket that encloses their arms and legs. It also eliminates the need for a separate blanket that could end up entangling or suffocating the baby.
Women, who plan to get pregnant, can take 3 steps to help ensure a healthy baby at birth:
- Quit smoking. Smoking can affect the baby’s development and could lead to a premature birth.
- Limit your use of alcohol or drugs that can harm you and your baby’s development.
- If you have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, make sure they are under control.
- Take Folic Acid before and during early pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the spine and brain. Some studies also show that it may help prevent heart defects or cleft palates.
START EARLY, STAY VIGILANT
Taking the steps outlined in this article will ensure a safe scene for your new baby. Yet, stay alert to sleep dangers that can hinder your growing child’s safety and life.
Sources include: McLeod Health, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.