What is a safe sleep environment?

Sheree Young, RN, CPLC, explains what safe sleep environments for babies are. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What is a safe sleep environment?

Safe sleep means a safe environment for babies to sleep in. Our term for this entire project says, safe sleep, every infant, every caregiver, every time. What that means is that babies sleep most safely on their back, in their own sleep space, crib, pack ‘n play and alone. They are not meant to share other sleep spaces with other adults, children, animals or pets. Babies don’t need lots of things in their crib. It needs to be very stark. It needs a firm mattress and a tight-fitting sheet. They don’t need lots of extraneous things. They don’t need bumper pads to prevent them from sticking an arm out; that’s not going to happen. They don’t need quilts and pillows and those kinds of things that could potentially get near their face and cause accidental suffocation. Sometimes entrapment issues occur when babies are placed in adult beds, actually wedged between the mattress and the wall. A safe environment for a baby is uncluttered, undisturbed individual safe sleep space. This is not rocket science. We are not asking you to buy the million dollar set up for this baby; we’re not asking you to do things that are out of the realm of possibility. If that were the case, if we were asking you to bring them in once a week or something like that but it’s not. It’s the basics. It’s alone on their back in their crib.


A safe sleep environment is a comfortable, safe sleeping area that decreases a baby’s chance of suffering from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), according to the American Academy of PediatricsOff Site Icon. The safest place for a baby to sleep is in the room with its parents, but not in the same bed, according to the AAP. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death for babies between one and 12 months old and most common among infants between one and four months old, according to AAP.

According to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon, parents and caregivers should use the following guidelines to create a safe sleep environment and decrease the risk of SUID/SIDS:

  • Baby should sleep on its back on a firm surface (that is not the same surface upon which anyone else sleeps)
  • Do not use pillows, blankets or crib bumpers in the baby’s sleeping area
  • Do not place soft objects, toys or loose bedding in the baby’s sleeping area
  • Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around the baby
  • Do not put anything on the baby’s head
  • Dress the baby in sleep clothing and do not use a blanket
  • Place the baby’s sleep area next to where the parents sleep
  • Babies should not sleep in an adult bed, couch or on a chair alone or with anyone else

For more information about safe sleep environments, talk to your doctor.

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