Despite efforts to promote research supporting the importance of babies sleeping on their backs, there are still more than 3,500 sudden and unexpected infant deaths each year according to a 2013 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tellingly, more than two-thirds are believed to be linked to unsafe sleep conditions.

Staying vigilant

“Safe sleep is one of the most important practices for new parents because the consequences are so great,” says Nancy Bartley, the CEO of The Boppy Company, an infant feeding and support pillow provider. To avoid any misuse of its pillow, while providing valuable information to new parents, Boppy partnered with First Candle, a nonprofit organization committed to infant health and survival, to educate parents about best sleep practices.  

"...parents should communicate the importance of sleep positions to grandparents or older caregivers..."

Chris Blake, CEO of First Candle, advises that in addition to placing babies on their backs, parents look for cribs certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer Association. But that’s not all. The crib should have a firm mattress and well-fitting sheets.

“To create a safe sleep environment,” he adds, “avoid nursery aesthetic and focus on safety.” According to Blake, the safest place for a baby to sleep is in the room where the parent sleeps. The baby’s crib should be positioned within arm’s reach of the parent’s bed. “Toys and other soft bedding should not be placed in the crib with your baby.”

New thinking

Molly Hermann, a mother of two young sons, says that parents should communicate the importance of sleep positions to grandparents or older caregivers who favored stomach or side sleeping positions.

“The advice has taken a 360 degree turn from 25 years ago,” she marvels.