The Safe Sleep Environment

Today we explore the meaning of “safe sleep environment.” As new parents, you hear this term frequently, but what does it mean exactly. Join me as we clearly lay out what this looks like and define how to start your baby’s sleep hygiene in a safe manner.

Episode Transcript:

Hi, welcome back to first breaths. to first steps, I have Paige Le Gault and Lindsey Burchfield with me today from parenting practice co they are both sleep specialists and help do behavior modification as well. Today we thought we would talk and put out some content about safe sleep environment. Anyone that you talk to across the board, it seems like in the pediatric environment, the sleep space, , anyone who’s trying to sleep train, we always talk about safe sleep environment first.

So I thought I would bring in the experts and really get it out there so that we’re all on the same page and starting off on the right foot. So welcome Paige. Welcome Lindsey. Thank you for joining me today. Thank you for having us. I’m excited to be here. Great to be with you, such a timely topic, right?

We’re at the beginning of the year, it’s good things to think about, make sure that we’re doing it even applies to getting things ready in your nursery. Your bassinet that’s in your room, maybe for the first couple weeks months that babies are sleeping with us in our rooms. But define for me what you guys consider to be safe, sleep environments.

A safe sleep environment would be a from flat mattress. That baby sleeps on and it’s their own sleep space. So not our shared sleep space as our big mattresses in our room, but a bassinet next to the bed with the certified mattress or their crib mattress in their crib. Number one and then two, nothing else in there with them, besides what they’re wearing, excluding hats, mittens, things like that.

Absolutely. I would agree with. Paige says there. The other thing was safe sleep environment. The AAP does recommend room sharing with newborns up to six months of age and minimum all the way up to one year, if possible. So that is something that we always suggest to our clients as well. Circling back to what Paige said, though, that means child is in their own, separate sleep space, right? So that would be the bassinet, the crib, and even the play yard. Some of those are certified for sleep as well. So that is absolutely something that would work if that’s what your family needs.

The other thing with a safe sleep environment we can talk about is we don’t want anything underneath that mattress or propping that child up. We want to ensure that. Flat at all times that is the safest way for our children to be sleeping. And of course always down on their backs. You want to be putting baby on their back. Eventually if they can roll both ways, then obviously we can allow them to sleep differently, but back is best. And that’s what we always suggest on that firm, flat surface.

Right. I’m going to take you guys back to mattress for a little bit, because you know, you always have those moms that are like, I’m just exhausted. I just, have to bring them back in my bed or they’re falling asleep on me. And I’m always like, well, you know, that matches that we sleep on is probably fairly soft compared to a certified, safe sleep mattress. That’s in a crib or bassinet. You never want to be the parent that was coulda shoulda, woulda. We have cases every year, unfortunately, of kids that get tangled. Caught between bed, frame and mattress, , have blankets and whatnot turbined around their head. And all of these are increased risk for SIDS.

So, you know, I think it’s really important to drive that home that you want a very safe mattress number one, but you also want a fitted sheet and that’s it. Nothing else, no blanket. If you feel like your baby is cold. Put another layer of clothing. You can even put a sleep sack over that. As long as those things have the ability for that child to put their arms through, it’s not going to come up around their head or their face. I think you bring up a really good point.

I do have parents ask me about bassinets that abut up to the bed. And as long as that mattress. Is considered certified safe and it has a fitted sheet. I’m okay with that. What do you guys think about that? I agree as well, especially when. Little little and they’re still swaddled and they’re not rolling around all crazy. I think it’s fine. They’re going to stay where you put them at that point, but once maybe starts moving or is even sitting up that needs to be rectified. That rail needs to come up. They need to be in a crib, something safer. So they don’t flip out or get stuck in a wonky position where we would have, should have.

Yeah, I totally agree with Paige in that the AAP doesn’t have any specific recommendations over those co-sleeper type sleep spaces. So I would agree as long as the child is not rolling around, can get into your mattress, but it’s fairly, you know, put in their own space. I think that that would be okay for a, definitely that newborn.

Right. I also have patients ask me a lot about things like a dock, a tot, which when I’m explaining that to someone I’m like, kind of looks like the back of a recliner, but it’s super soft and it is a little bit more firm around. And then it clips at the bottom to keep them in place. And I’m like, that is not certified safe sleep.

So it’s still soft. It’s still pliable has that ability to come and encompass the base. Especially if a child is turning their head towards the borders of that or what encompasses around them. And so I’m like, not yet. Yeah, snuggle MES DACA tots and the boppy, which looks like a donut, but it’s elevated. It’s like a 38 degree incline. All of those are not designed for sleep. There have been major recalls in 2021. And those companies, I believe, have to rebrand to not allow sleep in their marketing whatsoever because unfortunately there were, there were some issues. So lots of families. I see put the, snuggle me in their bed as a bed safe bassinet or in the bassinet. And so Lindsay and I are seeing those things. That’s the first thing to go. And then a little education about why we choose a firm mattress with nothing budding along the edges, or even I’ve seen rolled up swaddles around their heads. Or their feet to keep them in place. So none of that, just the fitted sheet, like you said Bev exactly.

Let’s talk a little bit about swaddling. You know, it, it, it is one of those techniques and tools that we have in our, in our tool case to kind of calm babies. So what do you feel about that with regards to quote unquote safe sleep? I would say we’re very pro swaddle in the first eight weeks of life.

It can absolutely be used, as you said, right. That have to kind of calm mat. Baby also really helps with startle reflex. Right. And making sure that during sleep baby isn’t flinging around waking themselves up. So in those first, really eight weeks of life, it can be a wonderful tool for sleep and just helping for sleep longer periods of time. But at that eight week, mark, we really do recommend the transitioning out of the swaddle at that point. You can do that . One arm for a few days, the other arm for the next few days, and they kind of transitioned into it. There are some wonderful transitional sleep sacks out there that you can use. Eight weeks is kind of ideal. I think the AAP suggests at least by 12 weeks and we also always say if there’s any kind of potential for rolling these, making any movement, that swaddle needs to go immediately, no matter how old that.

Right. And I think it’s important for people to understand that once kids are rolling, which can be developmentally anywhere around four to six months, they might need those arms out because they’ve got a support chest to be able to move that head a little bit even if they’re not bringing their arms up towards themselves, they need the arms once they’re rolling. I have had a lot of patients ask for me to write notes about using swaddles, you know, beyond this eight week period for daycare. And it’s the only way they, and I’m like, I usually tell parents I’m like, I actually would be concerned if the daycare was asking you for a note to do that, because it’s really just not a safe sleep practice.

Would you ladies agree? Absolutely. And I think that transitioning out of the swaddle. Very scary because maybe you do have a good sleeper. And now I had their arm out for a nap and they hated it and they didn’t sleep at all. And it is a hard couple of days, but if you can be consistent and stick through with it, they’re going to do just fine and then put them in a sleep sack. That’ll keep them warm. That’ll help transition them. And you can use that at daycare safely with those arms. You agreed.

What do you guys think about, I feel like a lot of the. Swaddles now are specifically made for that. So realize my two friends here are much younger. They’re children. They’re still in the game, right? They are, you know, in the trenches with young kids and my babies are 21, 19 and 17. Nobody’s swaddled. Right. He’s a weighted blanket, but no one is lovely, but you know, I feel like a lot of those tools now that are specifically. Labeled as a swaddle or much safer than what I did.

Right. We took receiving blankets, folded down the corner, put the head there, wrapped like a burrito, which really has a high incidence for those babies to break free, even when they’re really, really young. So when I look at like some of the things that Lindsay has shown me and whatnot, and that I’m seeing online, that my clients are using. That looks like a better option than burrito roll. Okay. Yeah, absolutely. My favorite product is it looks like a flying squirrel suit. Their arms are up so they can rub their little face if they want, find their hand to suck on if they want. And it just feels more natural for them to have their hands up and then those little wings unzipped and their chest or their. A little bit swaddled, so it feels nice to them, but their hips are free to move. Roll all the good stuff. Yeah. There’s so many wonderful swaddles out there. I mean, and ones that you can kind of for halo, for example, that’s swaddle, you can start with your hand, the hands down, and then you can kind of keep them it’s it’s velcro so then the hands can come out, then you can keep it around the waist for it just nicely transitions them out, using some of that, you know, snug or technology that they like making them feel safe through that transition. There are so many different types of. Wonderful swaddles out there. One thing I do want to say is I am not a real proponent of let’s say like the magic Merlin suits as a swaddle. In a lot of cases, it just restricts movement so much. In a lot of times it can come almost like an association for some children. And you have to break there. So just from a safety perspective and overall sleep perspective, I’m not a huge fan of the magic Merlin suit. So I like to mention that because some people think when I say transition from swaddle, that’s a great next step. I think that there’s other better products out there, like the luxury dream or the zippity zip, or he even halo sleep sacks, all of those things.

Yeah. I agree. I think that once their arms are out the magic Merlin is also a backstep. And it kind of slows down the developmental stuff of rolling and big gross motor skills. And it makes me nervous. Some of those babies are really tiny and that suit is puffy. I agreed when I saw it, I was like, oh, they kind of looked like the Michelin man. What does it make you feel again? Puffy, soft, something that might. Encompass that face. Anything around that head area kind of makes me a little nervous. Agreed.

What do you guys think about. You know, back in the day, we used to put these lovely little bumpers around our cribs and you know, it’s, it was kind of more of a fashion statement rate than anything else. And I think for the most part, most parents are fairly well-educated about probably don’t need a bumper. What do you think about like the mesh bumpers that are quote unquote breathable or, you know, babies get next to, they’re not going to. Have anything that’s really getting or wrapping around their face. What are, what are your thoughts on those? It’s a no-no anything in the crib beside that fitted sheet and baby, and what they’re wearing is a no-go. So if we spot that on our chat with parents, we ask them to remove it. We have both come across some interesting homemade items as well that we’ve asked to be removed or electronics.

The same thing. So we like a naked crib here. Boring is good to go. The boring, the more boring, the better, which for me was really hard with my first child with my daughter, because I got all the things I even got the bumps. And then I took my sleep course before I was certified in all of this. And I had to send them back because I learned they’re not safe enough. And to be honest, the more boring your nursery can be the better it is for sleep anyways. It causes less stimulation. So we always recommend that to our folks as well. So it was upsetting to me, but in the end, the most important thing is safe, sleep and safety for your children. So those bumpers went right back.

Perfect. Perfect. I do also always like to mention things about like the lovies in there and stuff like that. And again,

Yeah, I think it’s not until they’re one. We, we at least say no lovies blankets until they’re one for sure. Pillows even longer than that. So yeah, definitely not having anything like that in the bed until one years of age is at least what Paige and I will recommend. And that’s what the AAP says as well, at least 12 months of age to have any of those things in there.

Have you guys seen any of the expandable cribs that are they’re almost, they almost come like in backpacks and you unzip them. They come out and then they have a very, very flat mattress. What are your thoughts on those type products or how do you even seen them? I haven’t seen them have. So when I was investigating travel bassinet for when we went to Mexico, I did run across one of these.

I think that there’s certain spaces where it’s okay for your child to sleep if you were there watching them. Right. So oftentimes we’re working with clients and their child might fall asleep in a car seat or in a swing or something like that. That can be okay for small amounts of time, if you were there supervising that activity.

So I would say if you were using. At the beach or you were going somewhere, you needed a place for your child to sleep. If you were there keeping a very close eye on them, supervising that sleep experience, that might be okay, but I wouldn’t use something like that for naps or overnight, or long-term, you know, term sleep times where you’re not going to be watching baby.

Right. I almost felt like, you know, I had a very hard time when I was researching those products, finding any sort of safe certification for them. And so it was kind of. Nope. Actually, it was a client that brought it to my attention. I had never seen that. I was like, what are you talking about? Is it like a pack and place?

She’s like, Nope, it’s pretty much like a backpack. It’s like a bag I can unzip it. The ends are from, there’s a specific for mattress. It has a fitted sheet that goes with it. But obviously again, it’s portable, so it’s not very big. The sides of it, they do come up, but I was like, you know I’m pretty, pretty sure that if I can’t find the certification, there’s a reason.

Yeah, read those labels. If you look at your Docker top or your snuggle me or anything like that, it says no sleep in every language you can possibly fit on there. So I would be curious if that cribs mattress or even the body of the crib had something. So. Yeah, I think it does take a lot of research. I mean, there are some really neat looking products, but I’m always like, why would you want to start a habit that you’re going to have to break later? You know, I think you guys call it an assist or something that, you know a prop yeah. Prop that you’re becoming dependent upon. And it’s like, yeah, not worth it. Long-term for sure.

Besides crib and bassi net with a fitted sheet, what are other things that you like to include in a safe. Sort of environment. What are you, what are your thoughts when someone says, what else does that include? So that would include what baby’s wearing. So they need to be. Correct me if I’m wrong, two more layers and what you’re wearing. If you’re in just a t-shirt and jeans, they’re in a onesy and a Zippy and then their light and their sound and the temperature in their room. So making sure it’s not too hot, not too cold it should be dark and they should have a constant white noise. It can be low, but something continuously playing that’ll help as well. Yeah, sure. Bed or bassinet or crib or bassinet is not by the window where there’s any cords or strings or something. Baby could pull on themselves, making sure that all that space is very clear. So nothing they can’t get tangled or nothing can kind of fall in that.

That’s a really good point. Both of you bring up, as far as location, but also what they’re wearing. We always say at least in clinical practice, One more layer than what you’re wearing. And when infants, newborns are coming home, that we do wear a hat just trying to preserve heat, but it’s not a long-term sort of item. And typically at that point, that’s a child that’s sleeping fairly close to you in your room. You’re right there. The thought just what they’re wearing, that being safe, as well as having those other comforts as well. Because as kids are getting older or, and from the get-go I know you guys always talk about 12 hours a day, 12 hours a night, and having dim lighting. That white noise is helpful at night because it, it sets the tone. It’s quiet not a lot of stimulation. The volumes turned down, right? We’re we’re not singing, we’re not revving this child app. We’re trying to keep everything very low key. It becomes a sleep cue later on, which will be very helpful for everybody. We love our environments to be the same, our routines to be the same. All of those things are extremely comforting and they’re good queuing mechanisms for our little ones. Exactly.

Well, I think in summary, safe sleep environment. The thing to think about is we talked about in parents’ room recommended by the AAP for six months up to 12 months, making sure that their space, their physical area, where they’re sleeping is separate. The mattress is certified and approved. The sheet is fitted and there’s nothing else in that crib with that baby. We did mention. Temperature, white noise, things like that. As far as dressing our baby and maybe one more layer than what we’re wearing.

Do you have a specific number as far as when you put out temperature, what you like to see a nursery or your room at? I suggest typically anywhere, anywhere between 68 and 71. I don’t see many, much fluctuation here in Colorado between that. Yeah. I’m in agreement with that as well. That’s what I recommend is the, go-to comfort level.

Thanks ladies for joining me tonight. The information that we put out there about safe sleep is super important. It’s a good thing to start right from the get go before your baby even gets here. if anyone who’s listening to our podcasts this evening found this information helpful, you can press on the link below and get a full entire transcript of what page Lindsay and I spoke about. If you’re interested in working with me in coaching you and your family from first breaths, first steps, you can also click on the link below as well until next time be well.