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The ABCs of Safe Sleep

The ABCs of Safe Sleep is designed to educate parents on proper sleeping techniques for infants. The goal is to prevent them from putting their babies in an unsafe sleep environment.

Ohio, for example,  has one of the highest infant death rates in the United States. Ohio reported 1,024 babies dying before their first birthday in 2017.

In Michigan, it was reported in 2015, that a baby dies every three days from an unsafe sleep environment.

And the good news?

Studies show that the introduction of an infant sleep education program can lead to dramatic reductions in sleep-related infant deaths. Promoting the ABCs of Safe Sleep can help achieve the goal of reducing infant deaths. It could save your child’s life!

By the end of this article, you will understand the importance and benefits of the ABCs of Safe Sleep. We will also share with you tips on how you can put the plan into action!

Let’s start here:

ABCs of Safe Sleep Reduce SUIDS

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) is a medical term used to describe the death of infants before their first birthday that occurs in a sudden and unexpected manner. These deaths usually occur during sleep or in the area where the baby sleeps.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) accounts for 38% of all Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in the United States. It is unexplained and usually happens during the first year of life when the baby is sleeping.

The is some scientific speculation that SIDS might be associated with defects in the part of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep

Control the Sleeping Environment

Physical Hazard – when a baby sleeps on their stomach, there is an increased chance that the mouth can become obstructed by the mattress. An immature infant brain may not send the signals needed to move the head during airway obstruction.

Sleep on a soft surface – it may seem softer and more comfortable from an adult’s perspective but again can lead to airway obstruction. If the baby is facedown in a fluffy comforter, the young brain may not have the survival mechanism needed to respond to airway obstruction.

Sleep in parent’s bed – sleeping in the same room with parents is scientifically proven to reduce SIDS. However, the risk of SIDS increases if the infant sleeps in the parent’s bed. The parent may accidentally suffocate the child by rolling over on them or obstructing their airway in other ways.

SUIDS affects all races and ethnicities.

Prevention using ABCs of Safe Sleep

There was a campaign to help raise awareness of these problems in 1994. It was called the “Back to Sleep” public education campaign. The results were a dramatic reduction in infant deaths that were sleep-related. However, since that time the reduction in deaths has flatlined.

A study done in 2017 shows that surveys conducted in 13 cities that promoted safe-sleep campaigns did not include the full range of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011 safe sleep recommendations.

So, let’s cover the basics!

 A is for ALONE. For safety, babies should sleep all by themselves. There should be nothing in the sleeping space to pose choking or obstruction hazards. This does NOT mean the space they sleep should be in a room all by themselves. Studies show that when a baby’s crib is in the same room as the parents, their chances of SIDS decreases.

Unfortunately, there are more than enough reports of parents accidentally suffocating their infant by allowing the baby to sleep with them in the parent’s bed.

It is important that the baby sleeps alone but preferably close to you.

B is for BACK. Always allow your baby to sleep on their back. Do NOT allow them to sleep on their sides or stomach. History has shown that babies are less like to suffocate or have their airway obstructed when laying on their backs. You should also remind babysitters and caretakers to follow this same advice if you choose to employ such helpers.

If you are concerned about the possibility of choking, please watch our video below. There is more chance of a baby choking or aspirating (breathing liquid into the lungs) when laying on their stomach.

C is for CRIB. A good crib meets current safety standards. This is where your baby should sleep both for naps and night-time sleep. Other approved beds such as Pack N Plays or bassinets are also acceptable. Just make sure there is nothing else in the sleeping area with your baby.

Remove all blankets, toys, bumper rails, and other loose bedding. All you need is a firm mattress and a fitted sheet. Firm mattresses are important because a soft mattress could lead to suffocation or obstruction problems.

Proper Clothing

Are you worried about your baby being cold without a blanket?

Swaddling is a safer method to stay warm over leaving loose blankets in the crib. Here’s a video to show how to properly swaddle your baby:

More Common Prevention Methods

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent SUIDS or SIDS, there are things you can do that have proven to help.

We already covered the ABCs of Safe Sleep: Alone, Back, Crib.

Temperature – Self-regulation can be compromised when uncomfortably high temperatures are reached. Whether it is from too many blankets or a fever, you need to keep an eye on your baby’s temperature. Dress your baby lightly for sleep and choose a room temperature that is comfortable in a light layer of clothing.

If you notice red, flushed skin or the baby is hot to the touch, consider removing some clothing or contacting your local physician. You absolutely don’t want to give any medicine to a baby without talking to a medical professional first.

Breast Feed – Studies show that breastfeeding your baby during their first six months lowers the chance of SIDS.

Pacifier – Studies also show that the use of a pacifier while sleeping may reduce the risk of SIDS. 

No Smoking – Smoking during pregnancy and near an infant is not only unhealthy for the baby but it can lead to death. The worst combination for a baby is when the mother smokes both during the pregnancy and after birth.

Swaddling – This is a very common method used to keep babies safe. It can provide warmth as well as keeping the infant from scratching their faces. Just make sure you place them on their back after you swaddle. The age to stop swaddling is when a baby begins to roll over on their own.

Do NOT do this!

  • never leave toys, extra bedding, or clothing in the crib during sleep time.
  • do not lay them on pillows, soft comforters, or other soft surfaces to sleep.
  • don’t line the crib with bumpers. They could present a suffocation risk.
  • never let your baby sleep on a sofa, loveseat, recliner chair or couch.
  • sleep aid products like wedges or positioners really aren’t needed.
  • do not rely on a home heart or breathing monitor to reduce the risk of SIDS

Follow the simple guidelines laid out in the ABCs of Safe Sleep and be leery of any advertising of a product that is supposed to stop SIDS. Consult your local physician or Department of Health before trying anything based on an advertisement.

ABCs of Safe Sleep Common Questions

Answers to common questions that parents have regarding SUIDS, SIDS or the ABCs of Safe Sleep.

Q: Will my baby choke if laying on their back while sleeping?

A: No. Based on anatomy, it is much harder to choke on your back than laying on your stomach.

Watch this video:

Q: Is it safe for my baby to sleep in a car seat?

A: When you are sleeping, it is safer to allow your baby to sleep in an approved, safe crib. Car seats and swings are allowable as substitutes only if you are awake, alert and able to keep an eye on them.

Q: What is the safe room temperature for my baby’s room?

A: Standard room temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, although many sources on the internet differ. Somewhere between 68 – 73 degrees F should be adequate. You should always monitor the temperature with a thermometer to be sure.

Q: Is it safe to put my baby to bed with a pacifier in their mouth?

A: It is okay to let them fall asleep with the pacifier. If it falls out while sleeping, do not place it back in their mouth. It is recommended that you wait to use a pacifier until you have established your breastfeeding routine.

Q: Is it safe to put my baby to bed with a bottle in their mouth?

A: No, this is not recommended. It can lead to a choking hazard. It could also train your infant to only sleep when food is present.

Q: Can I let my baby sleep with me every now and then?

A: No, never! The maternal desire to stay close to your baby is strong and completely understandable. But to keep your little one safe, it is imperative that they only in their own sleeping area.

Q: What should my baby wear when sleeping?

A: One lightweight, one-piece outfit labeled as non-flammable is the best option. If you swaddle, as mentioned before, just make sure you leave the head and face uncovered.


Be an Educator for the ABCs of Safe Sleep!

Do you want to be a part of the solution to help reduce these unnecessary infant fatalities?

Here’s what you can do:

Organize a community baby shower in your local area. Provide free education during the baby shower to promote the ABCs of Safe Sleep. Allow participants to ask questions.

Ask local businesses to contribute buy donating cribs that meet current safety standards. Portable cribs are the best because they can be moved from room to room when needed.

These types of events help promote confidence and self-esteem, reduce feelings of loneliness, and allows young mothers to learn from the experience of others.

After a community baby shower in Kansas, a survey showed “more mothers planned to have their infant sleep supine in a crib, portable crib, or bassinet after receiving education and tools at the baby showers.”

What else can I do?

Organize a local event to raise money for SIDS. Use the funds raised to buy cribs and appropriate swaddle blankets. Donate them to the local hospital to be distributed to parents of newborns.

You could also use the funds to buy advertising on local radio or billboards. The local television stations are usually eager to promote these types of events and put them in their news rotation. offers multiple ways to hold an event and they will support you. Here are some examples:

  • Bake it for Babies – hold a bake sale to help raise some dough!
  • Pyjama Day – pop your PJs on for fun at your nursery or pre-school!
  • Click here for Festive Fundraising Ideas or here for 50 more fundraising ideas!


We hope this informative article on the ABCs of Safe Sleep has helped to educate you on the dangers of an improper sleep environment for infants. Following the steps of “alone, back, crib” can increase the chances of your infant successfully making it through the first year of life.

Give yourself and your little one the advantage of learning and using the ABCs of Safe Sleep. Your grandchildren may thank you for it.