A recent study published in the September 2016 issue of Pediatrics found that an alarming number of parents are placing their babies in sleep environments that are unsafe.  The study titled Nocturnal Video Assessment of Infant Sleep Environments videoed infants sleeping for one night at one month, three months and six months of age.

How safe is your child's sleep environment?

Upon analysis of the one month videos, researchers found that 21% were placed to sleep on non-recommended sleep surfaces and 14% were placed on their sides or stomachs to sleep.  In addition, 91% of the videos showed infants with loose items on their sleep surface such as bedding, bumper pads, pillows, stuffed animals and sleep positioners.

When looking at the videos filmed at three months of age the study found that 10% of babies were placed on a non-recommended sleep surface to begin the night.  18% were placed on their stomachs or sides and 87% had hazardous items on their sleep surface.

At 6 months of age, the videos showed that 12% of babies began their night as on a non-recommended sleep surface, 33% were placed on their stomachs or sides and 93% had loose items on their sleep surface. Also of note is that when babies had more than one sleep location through a night the second location was more dangerous than the first.  At one, three, and six months, 28%, 18%, and 12%, respectively, changed sleep locations through the night.  When the sleep location changed there was often bed-sharing and stomach or side sleeping at the second location.

The study concluded that even though parents were aware they were being recorded, they still placed their babies in dangerous sleep environments. The following guidelines from Health Canada’s document Is Your Child Safe?  Sleep Time should be used when creating a safe sleep environment for your baby.

  • The safest place for your baby to sleep is on his or her back, in a crib, cradle or bassinet. Health Canada recommends room sharing for the first six months of your baby’s life.
  • Babies and young children should never be placed to sleep on standard beds, water beds, air mattresses, couches, futons or armchairs. A baby can suffocate when sleeping on these unsafe surfaces.
  • Put your baby on his or her back to sleep, both at nap time and at bedtime.
  • Your baby’s crib should be completely empty, except for the crib’s mattress and fitted sheet.
  • Avoid the use of loose bedding or soft objects in your baby’s sleeping area. Products like these can be suffocation hazards and should not be placed where your baby sleeps:

o   comforters, heavy blankets and quilts

o   infant or adult pillows

o   foam padding

o   stuffed toys

o   bumper pads

o   sleep positioners

  • Blankets can be dangerous if a baby’s head gets covered when he or she sleeps and may cause suffocation. Instead of a blanket, consider dressing your baby in light sleep clothing, like a one-piece sleeper. If a blanket is needed, infants are safest with a thin, lightweight, and breathable blanket.
  • Overheating is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If the room temperature is comfortable for you, it is also comfortable for your baby.
  • Keep your home completely smoke free. Cigarette smoke is harmful to babies and increases the risk of SIDS. No one should smoke near your baby.
  • It is not safe for a baby to sleep for long periods of time in products such as strollers, car seats, swings, bouncers, slings or baby carriers, that keep him or her in a seated or semi-reclined position. Move your baby to a crib, cradle or bassinet for naps or overnight sleep, or once you have reached your destination.
  • Cords on window blinds, shades and curtains are a strangulation hazard. Tie the cords out of your child’s reach or install a tension device for looped cords. Whether the blind is up or down, make sure your child cannot reach the cords.
  • Place your baby’s sleeping area so that hazards like windows, patio doors, lamps, candles, electrical plugs, corded baby monitors, extension cords and small objects are out of your child’s reach.
  • Not everyone will take the same care you do in making sure their home is safe for children. When visiting family and friends, scan your surroundings for potential hazards and supervise your children closely.
  • Check regularly for recalls of children’s toys, clothing, furniture and equipment by contacting the manufacturer or by visiting Health Canada’s Consumer Product Recalls web page: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/cps-recalls.



Erich K. Batra, Douglas M. Teti, Eric W. Schaefer, Brooke A. Neumann, Elizabeth A. Meek, Ian M. Paul. (2016). Nocturnal Video Assessment of Infant Sleep Environments. Pediatrics, Volume 138, Issue 3.

Health Canada (2012). Is Your Child Safe?  Sleep Time. Retrieved from http://hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/cons/child-enfant/sleep-coucher-eng.php


Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at alysa@sleepwellbaby.ca.





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One response to “Is Your Child’s Sleep Environment Safe?”

  1. […] if you have a sensitive sleeper on your hands! Not only is it important to ensure that your child’s sleep environment is safe, you also need to ensure that it provides them the comfort they need for a peaceful […]

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