Kids Health Matters: Safe sleep for babies

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- Infants need about 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day for good growth and each child has his or her own sleep patterns. But there are guidelines parents should follow for every baby's sleep time.

During nap time at the Nemours Child Development center, little ones are being laid into cribs for a trip to dreamland. And they start their journey right.

The most important thing is that babies should be laid on their backs," said Dr. Judy Larkin, Nemours Pediatrics.

Dr. Larkin says the 1992 recommendation by the Academy of Pediatrics was aimed at cutting rates of SIDS - sudden infant death syndrome - and it's worked,cutting SIDS deaths in half or more.

When I was early in practice, I had several patients who died of SIDS, and in recent years, I have not had any," said Dr. Larkin.

Dr. Larkin says new design standards for cribs have also helped.

Still, some risky sleep practices are still fairly common. One is co-sleeping in a parent's bed.

She understands parents want babies close by.

"They feel safer if they know where their child is," she said.

But pillows, mattresses and bedding on adult beds are too soft for infants who can't roll over off their stomachs or lift themselves above them.

"It puts babies at a very high risk of sudden death," said Dr. Larkin.

She says babies should share a room with parents at the start, but not a bed.

Some hospitals and communities make safe, draft-free boxes available for newborns, if a bassinette or pack'n'play isn't available.

In a crib, the mattress should be firm, with no bumpers, stuffed animals, pillows, toys, or blankets till at least one year of age.

"You know, the risk of SIDS is still up there until about that period of time," said Dr. Larkin.

Other tips are to keep sleeping quarters comfortable, but not too warm and keep young babies away from smokers.

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