Every parent wants to make sure her newborn is sleeping safe and sound, reducing the risk of SIDS -- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome -- as much as possible. Whether your newborn sleeps in a crib, play yard or co-sleeps with you, there are some important precautions to take. Never place a baby to sleep on a chair, soft bedding, water bed, cushion, adult bed or any other raised surface not intended for newborn sleepers.
Your newborn's crib should be safety-approved, which will be noted on the box the crib came in. Older cribs may have wide slots, which pose a strangulation and fall risk, so always research a model before purchase. The mattress should be firm and fit snugly into the frame. Use only a fitted sheet on the mattress and perhaps a fitted mattress pad made especially for a full-size crib.
Make sure the crib has no blankets, pillows or stuffed animals or toys in it. As of 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing babies on their backs for naps and nighttime sleep. Side-sleeping babies may roll into their tummies, so avoid that position. Babies may get too hot if over-bundled, and blankets should never be placed over their heads.
Play yard bassinets are suitable for newborns weighing less than 15 pounds. Some parents find that models with a bassinet and/or changing table are an invaluable convenience when you're not in the nursery, especially if you have a two-level home and mom shouldn't be climbing up and down stairs all day right after having a baby.
Make sure the bassinet pad fits snugly and securely into the frame and runs the entire length and width of the play yard. Your baby can get stuck in cracks between the padding and sides of the yard. Never place a baby to sleep on a changing table. It's only meant as a surface to place her on while you're directly at her side, with one hand on her at all times. Always remove the changing table while your baby is sleeping in the bassinet.
To Co-Sleep or Not to Co-Sleep
Healthcare professionals like Dr. William Sears advocate co-sleeping with a newborn and even infants and toddlers. Sleeping on the same surface with baby -- or within arm's reach -- encourages simple nighttime breastfeeding and helps the mother match her sleep cycle with her baby's. Your newborn may fall asleep more quickly and wake less often. Co-sleeping also allows working parents to be physically closer to their baby at night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against placing newborns in adult beds. However, many traditional cultures commonly co-sleep, and the September/October 2002 issue of "Mothering Magazine" points to research showing that babies sleeping in a crib are twice as susceptible to sleep-related deaths than newborns sleeping with their parents.
A Safe Co-Sleeping Bed
Co-sleeping bassinets are available that attach to the parents' bed. This gives parents and baby separate sleeping spaces but puts them within arm's reach for nighttime feedings and care, something the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. If you do bring your baby onto the bed with you, place the mattress flush against the wall and position the baby between mother and the wall, not between the mother and father. Purchase guardrails with mesh lining instead of slats. The mattress should fit snugly against the rail. The baby should sleep on his back. You shouldn't co-sleep if you smoke, are under the influence of any drug, are very obese, have sleep apnea or are not the baby's parent.