By Jessie Whitish
Traveling with my son—now nearly three years old—requires an extra suitcase. Is it full of snacks, extra clothes, or enriching toys? No. It’s packed with all the things he loves to sleep with in his bed at night! His sleep sack, two light blankets, a stuffed Pete the Cat, three Disney princess dolls, an elephant lovey…you get the idea.
Nowadays his toddler bed is full of items that bring him comfort when he sleeps (Anything to get that child to sleep!), but that wasn’t always the case. For nearly two years, and especially during his first year, I was a safe sleep fanatic and was always spouting off “our babies should be alone on their backs in a crib” when hanging out with other moms. (Seriously. I learned the ABCs of Safe Sleep acronym before I was pregnant and never forgot it.)
I was such a fanatic because I know safe sleep greatly decreases the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and infant suffocation.
That’s easier said than done for sleep-deprived parents of young babies, though. Often I drifted off while holding Nash as a baby, and it was tempting to prop him up while sleeping because of all of his reflux. And bedsharing seems like a simple solution, especially for breastfeeding moms. (Co-sleeping and bedsharing are controversial topics, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against sharing a sleeping space, even if you bring your baby into bed for feeding or comfort.)
I may have made a lot of mistakes when my son was a baby, even around safe sleep, but here’s my list of safe sleep strategies (alone, on his back, in his crib!), most of which were snagged from the AAP recommendations:
- Sleep sacks will save your sleep and your baby’s. Rather than a blanket, keep your baby warm and feeling snuggled in a sleep sack (a wearable blanket). They make sleep sacks that fit well into toddler-hood.
- Pack and plays are awesome. These portable cribs provide a solid flat sleeping space and allow you to room-share for the recommended six months. We kept a pack and play in our bedroom and a pack and play in the living room for Nash’s first six months, and we still use one for travel.
- Pacifiers as prevention. My son used a pacifier for comfort, and the fact that it reduces the risk of SIDS was an added bonus.
- Don’t buy in to the sleeping device hype. Caregivers know that companies try and market all kinds of products to new parents. With regards to safe sleep, I was bombarded with ads for special wedges, tiny bassinets that would fit in my bed, and monitors that fit on my baby’s foot. None of these products, or others like them, will help prevent SIDS.
When I look back at pictures of Nash when he was very young, he seems so small in his pack and play. Compared to his bed now, he looks almost lonely! But he was safe—or at the very least, in as safe a situation as I could provide—and that helped me sleep a bit more soundly.