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Safe Sleep

Does Your Baby Sleep Safe?

For more information, visit our SLEEP SAFE site

Why do I need to get a crib for my baby to sleep?

The crib is the ONLY safe place for your baby to sleep. Your baby shouldn’t sleep on an adult bed or couch or with pillows, cushions or stuffed animals. Your baby could be suffocated in these soft materials. Your baby also could become trapped in between cushions on a couch or get stuck between the bed and the wall. These tragic situations occur all too frequently in Baltimore City.

I can't afford a crib. What should I do?

For help in getting a crib, or with accessing health services, contact HealthCare Access Maryland at 410-649-0526.


Why should my baby sleep alone? I feel safer with my baby near me.

Most sleep-related deaths in Baltimore happen when babies sleep with an adult or with other children. Remember, it doesn't take much for a baby to suffocate.

Everyone I know sleeps with their baby—it's part of my culture.

Babies are more likely to suffocate when they sleep with an adult in an adult bed. It is important to remember to put your baby's safety first.

How am I going to bond with my baby if she doesn't sleep with me?

Holding your infant for feedings and bonding is encouraged. It is only when your infant is sleeping that he or she needs to be alone, on their back and in a crib. You may find you sleep better too!

How am I going to breastfeed if my baby doesn't sleep with me?

Remember—share a room, not a bed. Put your baby’s crib next to your bed so that you can easily pick him or her up for feedings during the night then return him or her to bed for sleeping.

My mother and auntie are telling me that they placed their babies on their stomachs while sleeping and that I slept on my stomach, so my baby should sleep on his stomach. Should I listen to them?

No. As the years have passed and more studies have been done, we have learned that infants are less likely to die from SIDS if they are placed on their back for sleep.

Won’t my baby choke if he sleeps on his back?

Many parents believe that babies are more likely to choke if they sleep on their back. This is not true. In fact, your baby is LESS likely to choke on his or her back, because in that position the windpipe (trachea) is above the food tube (esophagus). Anything that is spit up from the stomach has to go against gravity to be inhaled into the windpipe. A healthy baby generally will turn his or her head so that spit up goes out of the mouth- not back down the throat.

baby on back

When your baby is on his or her stomach, anything spit up can block the windpipe and cause choking or breathing problems.

baby on side

Infants are actually less likely to choke when placed on their backs compared to their stomachs. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics changed the recommended sleeping position to the back, there has not been an increase in the number of deaths due to choking.

My baby looks so uncomfortable on his back. He can’t sleep that way.

In most of the sleep-related deaths reported in 2009 for Baltimore City, the babies were found sleeping on their stomachs. Two of them had been placed to sleep on their side. Every time your baby lies down to sleep, he should be on his back- not his side or stomach. No exceptions.

Put your newborn baby on his or her back to sleep from day one. Your baby will soon get used to sleeping like that—soon it will seem natural.

If your baby is used to sleeping on his stomach, it may take a few days for him to get used to it, but rest assured—he will. Soon your baby will think it is natural.

You can also use a pacifier to calm your baby and help him or her go to sleep. Research suggests that pacifiers help reduce risk too.

Won’t my baby get cold without a blanket or sheet?

Dress your baby in a sleeper for warmth, but do not use blankets or allow your baby to get too warm. Overheating can be a risk for SIDS. If the room temperature is comfortable for you, then it is also comfortable for your baby.

What if my baby rolls over by himself?

Once your baby has reached an age where he or she is able to roll over from back to stomach, there is no need to watch or reposition him. You can let the baby sleep in any position he or she wants. Do not use a pillow or rolled up blanket to keep your baby on his back. These items may also increase the risk of your baby suffocating.

When can I stop placing a baby to sleep on her back?

You should always place the baby on her back, but once the baby is able to roll over on her own don’t worry about trying to keep her on her back.

Doesn't my baby need to spend time on his tummy?

Yes! You can provide 'tummy time' when he is awake and being watched. This will help strengthen his neck and arm muscles and prevent flat spots on the back of his head. 

For more information on 'tummy time,' go to



What kind of crib should I get for my baby?

Your baby’s crib does not need to be fancy or expensive, but it must be safe. There are many types of stationary and portable cribs (such as a Pack ‘n Play™ or the portable crib given out by the Baltimore City Health Department) that are safe—you just have to make sure that it meets current safety guidelines. When purchasing a crib, look for Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification.

If you borrow a crib, check to make sure that the slats are no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Widely spaced slats can trap an infant's head.

The mattress should be firm and fit snugly in the crib. The crib sheet should fit tightly all the way around and under the mattress. Nothing else should be in the crib with your baby – no quilts, blankets, comforters, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, or soft toys.

Car seats and infant carriers should not be used as your baby’s bed. Your baby could get knocked over or roll over. It’s just not worth taking a risk.


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Sponsored by the Office of
Mayor Bernard C."Jack" Young,
Baltimore City Health Department,
The Family League of Baltimore, and
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield