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As They Grow – Safe Sleep

One of the biggest concerns of new and expecting parents is, “Will my baby sleep?”  There are many books, resources and products aimed specifically at infant sleep and millions of dollars are spent each year on marketing these products.  However, as a parent you must look at these materials with a watchful eye, keeping your infant’s safety as your primary focus.  Many products aimed at helping your baby fall asleep faster, better and longer are in fact not considered safe for infant sleep, and are not regulated by the Government of Canada.  Use of many of these products and practices may increase your infant’s risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or sleep-related death.

“The actual cause or causes of SIDS is unknown. In 2004, SIDS accounted for 5% of all infant deaths (0 to 1 year of age) and 17.2% of postneonatal deaths (28 days to 1 year of age). SIDS can occur at any time during the first year of life but peaks between 2 and 4 months, with fewer SIDS deaths occurring after 6 months” –  (Public Health Agency of Canada – Joint Statement on Safe Sleep, 2011)

This is alarming for new parents to read, but there are some practical ways to reduce the risk of SIDS:


Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower incidence of SIDS.

Provide a Smoke-Free Environment – Smoking (both during pregnancy and after baby is born) has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS, as well as many other illnesses.

Back to Sleep – ALWAYS put your baby to sleep on their back, for all naps and nighttime, on a flat and firm surface.  Inform any friends, family members or alternate caregivers that your baby must always be placed on their back to sleep. Provide lots of time on their tummy when they are awake.

Provide a Safe Sleep Environment – Infants should sleep in their parents’ room for the first six months of life, in a crib, cradle or bassinette that meets current Canadians regulations with no extra items (including pillows, toys, heavy blankets, bumper pads).  Infants should not sleep in adult beds, on sofas or other soft surfaces as this increases the risk of suffocation and sleep-related death. Car seats, swings, bouncers, infant carriers/slings/wraps, play pens, strollers or any other product marketed for infant sleep that is not a crib, cradle or bassinette should not be used to place baby to sleep.

Soothers – Use of a pacifier appears to provide a protective effect against SIDS.  However, do not force your infant to take a soother if they are disinterested.

The following websites were used when researching this article and all are excellent resources for further information regarding SIDS and safe infant sleep practices:

  • www.sidscanada.org
  • http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/stages-etapes/childhood-enfance_0-2/sids/ssb_brochure-eng.php
  • www.publichealth.gc.ca/safesleep

Christa Weir-Cudney, RN, Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex


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