Health Topics

Safe Sleep

Sleep related deaths such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), suffocation, or strangulation continue to be a cause of death for infants in Canada, Ontario, and Hamilton.

You can reduce the risk of sleep related death by creating a safe sleep environment. To make a safe sleep environment, you can follow the ABC’s:

A - Alone

  • Your baby is not sharing their sleep surface with any other children, adults, or pets.
  • There is only a firm mattress and fitted sheet.
  • There is nothing in the environment such as blankets, pillows, toys, or bumper pads.

B - Back

  • Place your baby to sleep flat on his or her back for every sleep.

C - Crib

  • Place your baby in a crib, cradle or bassinet that meets current Canadian regulations.
  • Place your baby to sleep in a crib within arm's reach of your bed for at least the ­first 6 months of life.

Frequently asked questions

  • When a healthy baby spits up during sleep, they will often spit, cough, or turn their head to clear their airway.
  • As this picture shows, when they are placed to sleep on their back, their esophagus (food pipe) is located under their trachea (air pipe).
  • This means that if any spit-up is not cleared from their mouth, it is more likely to follow gravity, back down through their esophagus, into their stomach.
  • If the baby is placed on their stomach to sleep, the trachea is now located under the esophagus, so any uncleared fluid is more likely to follow gravity down into the trachea and into the lungs.
  • This shows that placing your baby to sleep on their back offers protection.

side by side illustration comparing a baby sleeping on its stomach and back

  • Inclined products such as car seats, swings or bouncers are not recommended for infant sleep because infants have heavy heads and weak neck muscles, and this inclined position puts them at a higher risk for their head to fall forward and constrict the airway, leading to positional asphyxiation (their position causing their airway to become blocked).
  • Elevating the head of the infant’s crib is not an effective way to reduce gastroesophageal reflux and it could also cause the baby to slide down to the foot of the crib into a position that could be dangerous.
  • Bumper pads are most often associated with the risk of suffocation.
  • However, other risks exist such as strangulation and falls.
  • An infant’s head can get caught over or under a breathable bumper pad or in the ties used to affix the bumper pad to the sleep environment, leading to strangulation or entrapment in a dangerous position.
  • Older children can use the bumper pad to climb out of the crib, putting them at risk of falls.

Additional Sleep Tips

Here are some other tips that can reduce your infant’s risk of sleep related death include:

  • Breastfeed your baby. Any amount of breastfeeding offers protection against SIDS. But exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months has been shown to reduce the risk by up to 50%. Learn more about breastfeeding your baby.
  • Keep your baby's environment smoke free before and after birth. Exposure to smoke increases the risk of SIDS. While it is best to quit completely, any reduction can help to reduce the risk. Learn more about programs to help with quitting smoking.
  • If the room temperature is comfortable for you in light clothing, then it is comfortable for your baby in a ­fitted one-piece sleeper. Being too hot puts babies at a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Share safe sleep information with anyone who cares for your baby.
  • Bouncers, car seats, strollers, swings, and playpens, are not meant for routine, unsupervised sleep. Because babies have big heads compared to their bodies and weak neck muscles, the semi-reclined position can cause their heads to fall forward into a chin-to-chest position and block their airway.

Contact us

Phone Health Connections: 905-546-3550
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