How to Protect Your Infant from Suffocation

When your little one enters the world, all you want to do is protect him or her from harm. Since infants are so vulnerable, it can be overwhelming and frightening to consider all of the potential ways your baby could be hurt or become sick. 

Suffocation is the most common cause of death for babies less than one-year-old. Even when it’s not fatal, suffocation can cause serious health problems such as anoxic brain damage. According to the most recent statistics from Safe Kids Worldwide, there were 25,518 non-fatal emergency room incidents involving infant suffocation in 2015. 

What Causes Infants to Suffocate?

Most infant suffocation incidents happen while your baby sleeps. Babies can still roll over when strapped into an infant sleeper. Some carrying positions with baby slings can make breathing difficult, and older or defective cribs may entrap an infant or restrict breathing. 

The common causes of suffocation with infants are usually related to their sleeping environment, including: 

  • Unsafe sleeping arrangements
  • Too-soft or defective bedding
  • Padding and blankets
  • Older or drop-side cribs
  • Improper use of baby slings and wraps
  • Portable baby sleepers
  • Bean bag chairs

How Can I Prevent My Baby From Suffocating?

In general, you can protect your infant from suffocation by practicing safe sleep precautions and ensuring the baby’s bedding follows the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards. You can also put some household safety protocols in place. 

Safe Sleep Practices

Keep your baby safe from suffocation by following these tips for their sleeping environment: 

  • Always lay your infant on their back in the crib, and don’t put them to sleep on a couch or your bed. 
  • Never put your baby on soft surfaces like a soft mattress or comforter, and instead use a firm mattress.
  • Remove the plastic from your baby’s mattress before using it, and don’t use crib bumpers.
  • Your infant’s mattress should fit snugly within the crib. There shouldn’t be any gaps because the child could get stuck between the crib sides and the bed, and an oversized mattress could cause suffocation if there are edges that accidentally fold up into the crib area.
  • Similarly, the mattress cover or sheet must also fit snugly over the mattress so that it doesn’t come off and suffocate your baby. There are crib sheet holders that you can buy to keep it snug in place. 
  • Unless you have specially designed side-sleeping equipment, your baby should never sleep in your bed or with you or other children, since they can be smothered. 
  • Keep all stuffed animals, blankets, and plush toys out of your infant’s sleeping area.

Home Safety Practices

Follow some safety practices around the home to prevent your child from suffocating while awake: 

  • Childproof your home before your infant is born and look at everything from a baby’s-eye view. Remove anything that could be dangerous, store them far out of reach, or use child safety products such as outlet covers and plug caps. 
  • Learn CPR and pay close attention to the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver for infants and babies so you can quickly help them if they start to choke and suffocate.
  • Tie knots in plastic shopping bags and other plastic bags before you put them in the trash or recycling bin. 
  • Always keep plastic bags such as Ziplock food storage bags, garbage bags, and other soft plastics out of reach of young children and infants. 
  • Store balloons out of reach of children and babies, whether they are inflated or deflated. Always clean up and safely dispose of all of the pieces of broken balloons.