The number one question we get at Mommywise is, “How in the world do we teach this new & tiny creature of ours to stay asleep when we put him in his crib?” Queries about what is safe to put in the crib with him are popular, too.
Although this post is about safe sleep training tips, it mainly focuses on crib hazards that prevent safe sleep training!
While avoiding crib hazards is mission-critical, sleep training is a little more involved and challenging. In light of that, let’s dive into tips about sleep training first, shall we?
What is Sleep Training?
Did you know that only 10% of new parents get seven or more hours of sleep per night? Just looking at that stat is enough to make you tired, right?
Well…sleep training was developed to address this problem, and it is a spectrum of approaches that help babies learn to fall asleep by themselves without any help from you or other caregivers.
In short, your tot is put down for bed while she is fully awake and then goes to sleep without any swaying, singing, rocking, feeding, shushing (and sometimes even some pleading) being involved.
Sleep training also provides an outlet for tired parents to get some much-needed rest, and Mommywise has loads of pages devoted to it that you can go to for more information.
Do Pediatricians Recommend Sleep Training?
You can rest assured that multiple studies show sleep training is safe and effective, and a great number of pediatricians overwhelmingly recommend it. In fact, Michael McKenna, M.D., a pediatrician at St. Vincent Medical Group in Zionsville, Indiana, says, “every baby needs sleep training.”
Meanwhile, never hesitate to consult with your baby’s pediatrician for their opinion and guidance on your child’s sleep training.
What Sleep Practices are Safe?
Safe sleep practices change as your newborn grows. And, while babies may reach milestones at different ages, age-appropriate safe sleep practices you put in place need to stay the same and be consistent.
You probably already know safe sleep basics, but just in case, here’s the short version: Put your baby down face up, in an empty crib with a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet – with no blankets, pillows, toys, sleep positioners or crib bumpers.
At around 12 weeks – or when your baby starts trying to break out of the swaddle or trying to roll, safe sleep becomes a lot more nuanced. During sleep training, for example, there are a few crucial safety concerns* you may need to address.
After sleep training, you’ll notice your baby will learn a trick or two. From there, you’ll need to make some more safety adjustments before your baby learns to sit, stand and climb.
*For more detailed information, you can check out the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations about crib safety and safe sleep practices by clicking here.
The Crib Hazards to Watch For
You’d be surprised that some of the most popular sleepwear products, which are ironically designed to help your baby sleep, can become dangerous during sleep training? Yep, it’s true.
With that being said, here are our top 3 not-so-obvious crib safety hazards we see (and remedy) all the time:
- Lower the crib and ditch the mobile: Before sleep training, you do all the things you normally do to help your baby fall asleep and PRAY that they stay asleep after you gently lower them into the crib (and ninja out of the room!).
You probably have the crib on the highest setting, so it’s easier to transfer them without tears.
For sleep training, though – even if your baby doesn’t roll or sit up yet, lower the crib to the next setting and get rid of the mobile because your baby will be able to sit and reach sooner than you think!
- Move everything out of your baby’s reach: And I mean EVERYTHING. Loose cables, curtains, lamps, clocks, and white noise machines should all be WELL away from your child’s crib – add baby monitors into that list too.
Baby monitors should be safely secured to a wall or flat surface at least 5 feet away from your baby.
- Choose safe sleepwear: What your baby wears for sleep training is crucial for their safety. Swaddles are safe for newborns but not for sleep training.
If your older baby or toddler is tall, loves to climb or there’s any risk of jumping out of their crib, a Halo sleep sack should prevent little legs from climbing over the rail.
DEFINITELY no crib bumper for this age, either. We know some clever little monkeys who learned to use them for leverage!
What Are Crib Safety Standards?
There are a lot of items that are wonderful to pick up at antique shops. Unfortunately, an old crib typically isn’t one of them, as many of them don’t meet modern safety standards.
Additionally, some of the finish in the older ones made before 1978 may even contain lead, which poses a significant health hazard to babies!
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a U.S. government agency. They are tasked with protecting consumers from dangers associated with more than 15,000 consumer products, including baby beds.
They also set crib safety standards, and you can use their safety list below to decide whether or not the one you want to use is a safety hazard:
- Cribs with drop-sides are illegal in the United States and now must be manufactured with fixed sides.
- Slat distances on the crib shouldn’t be more than 2 – 3/8 inches apart between them – about how wide a soda can is, for example.
- Corner posts should not be any higher than 1/16 inches.
- The mattress in the crib should be tight-fitting and firm. Specifically, if 2 fingers fit in between the ends or sides of the crib and its mattress, it means the mattress is too small and that the combination shouldn’t be used.
- Design cut-outs, while pretty, don’t belong in headboards or footboards of cribs. Don’t use the bed if it has them.
- Don’t use one that is incorrectly assembled, whether you bought the crib that way or assembled it yourself.
- Ensure the crib doesn’t have broken or fractured slats. Also make sure it doesn’t contain broken, missing or loose hardware.
- Don’t use a crib manufactured in June 2011 and before. That’s the time safety standard laws went into effect that bans the making or selling of cribs with drop-side rails.
Although you might want to keep an antique crib because it looks lovely, or for sentimental reasons, if your baby bed doesn’t adhere to modern safety standards, it shouldn’t be used for sleeping.
If you do not want to destroy the tiny bed, you can always use it for the storage of baby blankets and essentials – or to decorate a room. Just be sure your child never sleeps in it, though.
Personalized, Safe Sleep Training
When it comes to your baby’s safety, we won’t take any risks. Your baby’s safety is why we don’t sell sleep training books or online programs, and will never give you a DIY sleep training plan.
We know from over a decade of working with sleep-challenged families that none of the books or plans is one-size-fits-all.
More importantly, they can’t prevent safety issues or help you make split-second decisions when something unexpected comes up.
If we’re helping you sleep train your baby in your home (in person or virtually), we will see and correct the safety issues that might not even be on your radar. And when the unexpected happens*, we help you make informed decisions about when and how to intervene.
*For example, the 6-month-old baby we recently worked with who knew how to roll both directions but started gagging and choking on his back every single time we put him down. (Now he’s safe and sleeping through the night!)
If you’re ready for expert sleep training support tailored for your baby, schedule a call so that we can learn more about you and how we can help.
Hi, I’m Natalie, founder of Mommywise. I’m a Brooklyn mom of two (now) teenagers, PPD survivor, still humbled by the early years of parenting. I started this blog in 2004 as a way to help other parents who felt as dark and lonely as I felt to feel less shame, normalize the feelings of not loving parenthood, and raise awareness about postpartum mood disorders. I’m passionately committed to helping new parents feel more joy, offering sustainable employment for women and mothers, and contributing to positive change in the world.