In the Crib
SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants 1 month to 1 year old, according to First Candle/SIDS Alliance. And although healthcare professionals don't know all the reasons for this mysterious problem, they do know that eliminating bedding and other soft materials from the crib is one way to help reduce the risk. "We don't want anything in the crib," says Betty McIntire, executive director of the American SIDS Institute. "We say a bare bed, meaning absolutely nothing in the bed but the baby, the clothing he's wearing and a fitted sheet."
"Any kind of blanket, quilt or cover in the baby's crib increases the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)," says Laura Reno, director of public affairs for First Candle/SIDS Alliance. "Our goal is to get all those things out of the crib."
These experts agree for good reason—blankets, stuffed animals, bumpers, and other bedding can cover a baby's face and cause re-breathing. Re-breathing means breathing in the same air over and over again, and this increases the intake of carbon dioxide and increases the risk of SIDS.
What is a Sleep Sack?
Recommendations against using blankets in the crib raises questions about warmth and whether or not Baby will be comfortable sleeping on a bare bed. Enter the baby sleep sack, a product that is essentially a bag for your little one to wear while sleeping. "Sleep sacks are really the first product that has come along that allows us to accomplish our goal of reducing SIDS rates," Reno says. "We very strongly recommend sleep sacks."
These snuggly sleepers come in a variety of designs and fabrics. Most designs zip closed or fasten at the bottom with snaps, so they are easy to work around when changing a diaper in the middle of the night. Some are made to be worn over another pair of pajamas, and others are designed to be worn alone, but they all help keep your baby warm and snug throughout the night.
"I didn't want to give my baby a blanket because I was afraid it would cover his face and he would suffocate," says Paula Duncan, a mom from Bluffton, South Carolina. "But I knew he was getting cold because his lips turned blue whenever we had the air conditioner on." When looking for an alternative to blankets, Duncan went with a sleep sack for her 8-month-old.
"Parents really like the 'snuggliness' of baby sleep sacks, and babies can move all they want and not get anything over their face," McIntire says. "They are a good replacement for other coverings."
Selecting a Sleep Sack
With such a huge variety of sleep sacks on the market, a parent's options are unlimited. The key to choosing the right one is to look for a design that seems comfortable and functional. And keep those late-night diaper changes in mind because you'll want something that's easy to use when you're half asleep.
Make sure your sleep sack fits your baby properly. You want the bag part of the garment to be long enough for your baby to rest comfortably. But you don't want it to be too big, either, because your baby could wiggle down into the bag.
Parents should also consider the weight of the sleep sack fabric because, although you don't want your baby to get cold, overheating can also be a risk factor for SIDS. In the winter, or when you're running the air conditioner, a heavier blanket sleep sack with a sleeveless design will likely be enough to keep your baby warm when layered over cotton pajamas. But in the warm summer months, a lighter-weight cotton sleep sack will be more appropriate.
Parents often mistakenly think they need to bundle their babies up more than is necessary. As a general rule, your baby will be comfortable in the same amount of clothing that an adult would wear. If you're concerned about how much clothing to put on your baby, talk to your doctor about what is appropriate. Also, keep in mind that your baby will let you know if he's cold or uncomfortable.