Safe Sleep Seven is a set of guidelines designed to make bed sharing safer for a baby and their parents. The concept originated in the 1999 book Sweet Sleep by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith and Teresa Pitman.
The general concept is to normalize the idea of bed sharing, especially for new parents or parents of young, breastfeeding infants. In the early days, frequent feedings and waking, along with the parent’s associated experience of exhaustion, can make the process of moving the baby in and out of a separate sleeping area a logistical nightmare.
Frequently mentioned by the La Leche League (LLL), Safe Sleep Seven is often promoted for breastfeeding mothers, but can also be used by bottle-fed parents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend allowing an infant to sleep in an adult bed with parents or caregivers due to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation and strangulation of the infant. The AAP recommends sharing a room without sharing a bed.
Written like a rhyme and sung to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” Safe Sleep Seven outlines key factors parents need to prioritize if they want to safely share the bed with their babies. While the scientific and medical community generally does not recommend bed sharing, many of the Safe Sleep Seven protocols are supported by peer-reviewed research.
Additionally, according to the AAP, risk factors that may contribute to SIDS include some behaviors both during and after pregnancy, such as:
So let’s discuss each line in rhyme and whether it has the backing of the scientific community.
No smoke, sober mom
As a fairly simple statement, if you go to bed with your baby, don’t smoke and don’t consume alcohol before bed. This is a fact supported by research, as many cases of infant deaths related to bed sharing have occurred when one or more parents were smokers or went to bed after consuming alcohol or taking medication.
The AAP not only recommends not sharing the bed, but also warns against smoking during pregnancy and exposing infants to smoking, as it can increase a child’s risk of SIDS.
baby on your chest
This line indicates that your baby should not be propped up on pillows. Note that this rhyme is more aimed at those who are breastfeeding or breastfeeding. So the idea is that your baby has direct access to your breast or breast, which makes breastfeeding easier.
Instead of having your baby on your pillow right in front of your face, have them lie flat on the mattress with their face near your chest or rib cage. Research has shown that breastfeeding women instinctively assume a protective posture when breastfeeding while lying down.
Known as “cuddly curls,” they wrap their baby protectively with legs and arms bent so that it is almost impossible to roll over the child. This claim is supported by research published in a 2019 study which found that the curlicue was more common in breastfeeding women than in formula-fed infants.
However, remember that even infants who are bottle-fed should not be propped up on pillows. You should also not support a bottle to help feed.
Healthy baby on the back
Most commonly, SIDS is associated with babies who are not tucked into bed on their back — or not on their backs. Whether you share your bed or put your baby to bed in a separate room, supine is the safest position.
All major medical groups, including the
Keep him lightly dressed
In addition to sleeping on their backs, babies can easily become overheated. This is another documented cause of SIDS. According to the AAP, the best way to dress a baby to sleep is no more than an extra layer of clothing than you would as an adult for comfort.
Not too soft bed
Your baby should not only sleep on its back, the mattress should not be soft either. This is another safety feature of Safe Sleep Seven that agrees with much of the medical community. The goal is for the surface to be firm and provide enough support to ensure your baby’s airway is clear.
While you should avoid surrounding your baby with bedding or toys as these pose a suffocation risk, it’s okay to make sure the mattress is covered with a fitted sheet. As a general rule, you shouldn’t let your baby sleep on a couch, chair, recliner, or any other surface that doesn’t have adequate support or where she could easily roll and fall.
Pay attention to the cords and gaps
Cords can pose a choking hazard if you are an active sleeper. A bed that’s too close to a wall or furniture can pose a hazard if your baby rolls over at night or shifts and gets trapped in tight spaces.
While most medical organizations warn against letting your baby sleep in the bed with you, they do warn that you should be mindful of your baby’s crib or sleeping area. Especially if a crib has slats, they recommend that the slats be no more than 2⅜ inches apart to prevent a baby from getting stuck between them.
Keep the blankets away from his head
Just as if your baby were to sleep in a separate room, the Safe Sleep Seven supports accepted guidelines from organizations such as the CDC and AAP that your baby’s sleeping area should not be covered with bedding or toys that may cover their head.
As with babies sleeping alone, if the bedding is pressed against their nose and they (or you!) are unable to move it for some reason, there is a risk that a child will choke.