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Help Your Baby or Toddler Sleep Safely

Healthy sleep is important for your child’s physical, mental, and social health. There are simple ways to help your baby or toddler sleep safely.

Use a firm, flat surface for sleep.

The sleep surface should be firm and should not indent when your child lays on it. Avoid surfaces that incline or put your child at an angle.

  • Place infants on their back to sleep. If your child has a medical need, follow your care team’s instructions for sleep position.
  • Make sure the crib, play yard, bassinet, or bed meets accepted safety standards, such as the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
  • Use a crib until your child is at least 3 feet tall and can pull themselves up to standing. A crib is important because:
    • The mattress is firmer than an adult mattress. Your child’s mouth and nose can sink into an adult mattress. They could stop breathing (suffocate) if this happens.
    • A crib has rails to keep them from falling out of bed. Even young infants can roll and fall out.
Baby sleeping in a crib with rails

Place babies on their back to sleep. Use a firm, flat sleep surface and keep the sleep area clutter-free.

Remove loose items from your baby’s sleep area.

Take toys, pillows, and blankets out of the crib for sleep. Your child’s mouth and nose could sink into these and make it hard for your child to breathe.

  • Use a fitted sheet that fits tightly around the mattress in your baby’s crib.
  • Always keep your baby’s face uncovered during sleep. Do not put a blanket where it could slip over their face.
  • Ask your care team what your child should wear in bed. Use clothing like a one-piece sleeper or wearable blanket instead of blankets. Make sure that clothing is the correct size for your child and that your child is not too warm or too cold.

Keep your child’s sleep area clean, and do not smoke or vape around your child.

Your child’s sleep area can easily spread germs. It is important to clean all areas where your child spends time including cribs, play yards, car seats, and play mats.

  • Keep your child’s sleep area clean and change bedding regularly. Wash clothing and crib sheets using hot water, and dry using high heat.
  • Clean the hard surfaces of your child’s crib or bed to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Keep your home smoke-free. Smoking or vaping increases your child’s risk for SIDS and breathing problems.

Do not sleep with your child.

Having your baby or toddler sleep with you is not safe. Research shows that co-sleeping or bed sharing is not a good idea because:

  • Your child gets better sleep and rest if they sleep alone.
  • A regular bed is not safe for very young children. Soft mattresses, pillows, and loose bedding can make it hard for your child to breathe or cause your child to be too hot. Research shows sleeping in bed with adults raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This is when a baby dies in its sleep with no clear cause.
  • Your child could be seriously hurt if they fall from a bed.

Choose the right bed for your child.

Your child needs a crib if they are:

  • Under 2 years (24 months) old
  • Less than 3 feet tall
  • Not able to pull themselves up to a standing position yet

Always use the side rails if your child sleeps in a crib. The rails should be up and locked as soon as you put your child in the crib. A child can climb out if you turn your back or walk away for just a second. Children, even babies, move fast! Keep the side rails up to keep your child from getting hurt.

Your child might be ready for a toddler bed or other bed if they are:

  • 25 to 36 months old
  • At least 3 feet tall
  • Potty trained
  • Can pull themselves up to a standing position

Sleep safely in the hospital.

When your child is in the hospital, it is even more important for your child to sleep in their own crib or bed, no matter their age. Being in their hospital crib or bed:

  • Protects against infection. You or another caregiver might carry germs on your skin or clothes, even if you are careful. Sleeping with your child could give them these germs.
  • Helps hospital staff reach your child in an emergency. Sleeping in their own crib or bed means the care team knows where your child is and can get to them quickly.

Your care team will choose the best bed for your child at the hospital. It depends on how tall your child is, if they are potty trained, what type of crib or bed they use at home, and their specific medical needs.

Always follow your care team’s instructions for how to help your child sleep safely. Specific recommendations will depend on what is best for your child. Ask your child’s doctor or nurse if you have any questions about helping your child sleep. Every child is different, and your care team can help you find the best option.

Key points about sleep safety

  • Pick the correct crib or bed to keep your baby or toddler safe while they sleep.
  • Keep crib rails up when your child is in it.
  • To prevent suffocation, do not put toys, blankets, pillows, or other items in your child’s crib and do not let anything cover their face.
  • Do not let your baby or toddler sleep with you.
  • Follow the instructions of your care team when your child is sleeping in the hospital.

Find more information on sleep safety

Reviewed: September 2022