Safe sleep for your baby

Newborns sleep about 16 hours a day. So it’s important to make sure that where and how they sleep are safe. Safe sleep can help protect babies from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related dangers, like suffocation (not being able to breathe).

How can you lower your baby’s chances of SIDS or other sleep-related dangers?

Here are some things you can do to help keep your baby safe when she sleeps:

Where to put your baby to sleep

  • Put your baby to sleep on his back on a flat, firm surface, like a crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib so there are no spaces between the mattress and the crib frame. The mattress shape should stay firm even when covered with a fitted sheet or mattress cover.
  • Use a bassinet, crib or play yard that meets current safety standards. Don’t use cribs with drop-side rails. Don’t try to fix a crib that has broken or missing parts. Visit U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to learn more about product safety standards or product recalls.
  • Keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and other soft objects out of your baby’s crib. They put babies in danger of getting trapped, strangled or suffocating. If your baby sleeps in your bed, never place pillows, comforters, quilts or other soft items beneath your baby, nor on top of him.
  • Share your bedroom with your baby but not your bed. Co-sleeping means that babies and parents sleep together in the same bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CPSC warn that babies should not co-sleep with their parents. Instead, put your baby to bed in his own crib or bassinet. Keep it close to your bed so your baby’s nearby during the night.
  • If you put your baby to sleep in your bed, never leave him alone. Don’t put him to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or other soft surface. Portable bed rails don’t always prevent a baby from rolling out of bed. Babies can get stuck in these devices and choke. Cover the mattress with a tight-fitting sheet. The mattress should fit snugly in the bed frame so that there are no spaces around your headboard or footboard. Check that there are no spaces between the bed and the wall or other furniture.
  • Don’t let your baby sleep in his carrier or sling, car seat or stroller. Babies who sleep in these items can suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in one of them, take her out and to her crib as soon as you can.
  • Remove any hanging window cords or electrical wires near where your baby sleeps. Babies can get tangled in them and choke.

How to put your baby to sleep

  • Put your baby to sleep on her back every time, until she’s 1 year old. It’s not safe for babies to sleep on their side or tummy. If your baby can roll over from her back to her side or tummy, and over to her back again, don’t worry if she changes positions while sleeping.
  • Dress your baby in light sleep clothes. Remove any strings or ties from his pajamas and keep his head uncovered. A blanket sleeper can keep your baby warm without covering his head or face. Keep the room at a temperature that’s comfortable for you. If your baby is sweating or his chest feels hot, he may be overheated.
  • Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. If you’re breastfeeding, wait until your baby is 1 month old or until she’s used to breastfeeding before giving her a pacifier. If your baby won’t take a pacifier, don’t force it. It’s OK if the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth during sleep. Don’t hang the pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach the pacifier to your baby’s clothing or a stuffed animal.
  • Don’t use products, such as special mattresses or wedges, that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that they do.
  • Don’t use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS. Very rarely some babies need a monitor because of medical problems. There’s no evidence that the monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies.

Mom and baby care

Last reviewed March 2012

See also: Co-sleeping, Putting your baby to sleep, Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Most common questions

How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?

About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.


How should I take my baby’s temperature?

If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:

  • Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
  • Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
  • Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
  • With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.

What do I do if my baby is constipated?

Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).