Creating a Safe Sleep Environment for Children

Safe sleep practices to follow for your children.

Infants and Babies

Because babies spend much of their time sleeping, the nursery – or their sleeping environment –  should be the safest area in the house.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 3,500 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in the United States. These deaths occur among infants younger than one. Two main causes include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental strangulation or suffocation in bed.

SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. Though the exact cause of SIDs is unknown, research shows parents and caregivers can help reduce its risk and that of other sleep-related deaths.

If you just had a baby, are expecting, or are taking care of a young infant it’s important to implementing safe sleep practices including:  

  • Placing a baby on its back to sleep – Infants should be placed for sleep on their back for every sleep by every caregiver until the child reaches one year of age. Side and stomach sleeping is not safe and is not advised. Infants should never be left to sleep on sofas, armchairs, or in sitting devices.
  • Removing suffocation hazards – A firm mattress and fitted sheet are all you need for your baby’s crib. Remove soft bedding, blankets, pillows, toys, crib bumper pads, pacifier clips, or any other items that could obstruct infant breathing or cause overheating should be in the bed.
  • Avoiding bed sharing – Infants should sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed but on a separate surface (room sharing). The infant’s crib, portable crib, play yard or bassinet should be placed in the parent’s bedroom for at least 6 months but preferably a year. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers safety standards for bedside sleepers. There are no safety standards for in-bed sleepers.

Toddlers and Young Children

The move from a crib to a bed doesn’t come at the same time for everyone. If a child is comfortable in a crib, there’s no need for a move, but some children are ready sooner than others. Here are some safety considerations to make before your child graduates from a crib to a toddler bed or kid-sized bed:

  • Does your child climb out of the crib? Ideally, babies would remain in their cribs closer to pre-k age, but the switch should happen before a child begins to climb out of the crib and possibly hurt themselves. Most toddlers have the ability to climb out of a crib when they are 35 inches tall. Keep the crib mattress on the lowest setting to make it harder to climb out.
  • Is the bed safety certified? Keep it low to the ground and make sure it comes equipped with guardrails to keep your child from falling out. Check for a sticker from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) on the bed and any portable rails you purchase.
  • Remove all hazards from the child’s room and the rest of the home. Once the crib bars are removed, your child is no longer confined to a small space. They’re given a newfound freedom to explore their bedroom – and the whole house, for that matter.
  • A big kid bed should be positioned in the center of the room, if possible, or at least a few feet away from a wall. Even at this older age, there is still a risk of suffocation if they become trapped between the wall and the bed.
  • Ensure that window blind cords or electronics cords like baby monitors, which can be strangulation hazards, are out of reach. Watch for items that your toddler might be able to pull into bed, like picture frames, lamps, etc.
  • Secure the stairs with gates at the top and bottom, bolt bookshelves and televisions to the wall, and put safety latches on dresser drawers so they can’t pull them out and use them to climb.
  • Consider using a monitor or attach bells to the door so you know when your child leaves the bedroom.


Image: An early learning professional holds a baby in her arms, with one hand gently caressing the child's head.

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The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

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Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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