Make Sure Your Newborn Experiences Safe Sleep

One of life’s many joys is giving birth and bringing the baby home for the first time. Not surprisingly, the responsibilities of parenthood are great, and one area that is extremely important and recommended by MUSC Children’s Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics is to follow safe sleep practices.

According to the South Carolina Safe Sleep Birth Outcomes Initiative, six infants die each month in South Carolina from unsafe sleep. For an infant in South Carolina, a sleep-related death is 18 times more likely to occur than an infant death in a motor vehicle-related accident. Babies are at risk for sleep-related death until they reach one year of age but are at greatest risk from one to four months of age.

Dr. Elizabeth Mack, is a board-certified pediatric critical care physician, who is also division director of pediatric critical care medicine at MUSC Children’s Health.

“Safe sleep involves the baby sleeping alone on their back in a crib or other hard surface until their first birthday to reduce the risk of the sudden unexpected infant death (SUID),” said Dr. Mack.

So how do you provide a safe sleep environment since newborns sleep almost 16-17 hours a day?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends following the ABC’s of Safe Sleep for infants:

A – Alone

Babies should always sleep alone in their own safe sleep space. A bassinet, crib or even a playpen with a firm and flat mattress, and a tight fitting sheet is recommended. In 2017, the South Carolina State Child Fatality Committee found that of 80 cases of infant death, 65 percent of the infants were sleeping in an adult bed, couch or chair.

Sleeping alone, means no other people, pets, toys, bumper pads, blankets, pillows or other objects are in the child’s bed. All these items may cause choking and suffocation.

B – Back

The safest position for an infant to sleep during their first year of life is on their back whether they are taking a nap or sleeping at night. Placing a baby on its back for sleep is one of the most important methods to prevent sudden unexpected infant death. Often a baby starts out on its back but is moved to an unsafe sleep position after awakening.

C – Crib

Babies should sleep on a firm sleep surface like a crib, portable crib, bassinet or play yard. Use a firm mattress with tight fitting sheets. Make certain that the crib meets current Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards. Do not use cribs that were made before 2011 or cribs that are broken or modified, or have gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress. Do not place the crib or bassinet near any cords like window blinds, curtain cords or even baby monitor cords, since babies can strangle on them.

It is fine for a baby to share your room as long as the baby is on a separate sleep surface. In fact, placing a baby in its own sleep space in a parents’ room, can reduce the risk of sudden infant death by up to 50 percent according to the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative.

Katy Decker, nurse manager for Mother-Baby at MUSC Health, said, “In the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion all of our postpartum rooms for new mothers will allow stable mothers and babies to room together. In fact, seven of the NICU rooms will even provide couplet care for some mothers where newborns and mothers can recover together in an intensive care setting, and mothers will be able to actively participate in their baby’s care.”

The new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion opens in October providing new and emerging technologies for expectant mothers and babies. The new women’s pavilion is able to provide the best in technology and management of the simplest to the most complex of obstetrical conditions. The hospital also will offer a dedicated “stork” elevator which will transport mothers from the hospital’s entrance directly to the fourth-floor maternity pavilion.

Every new parent will understand more about safe sleep practices when their child is born at MUSC Health. To learn more about safe sleep visit DHEC and the American Academy of Pediatrics For more information about pregnancy services at MUSC Health, visit or call 843-792-1414.