(ARA) - When a baby arrives in your home, the world changes. Even after the months of preparation and planning for the little one's arrival, the love a parent feels is stronger than could have been imagined - and so is the protective instinct. Giving your baby the finest of everything and keeping her safe are the top priorities for parents, but the gap between what seems like the right thing to do and what will actually be best for your child can be wide.
It's second nature to plan an adorable nursery that's coordinated from the art on the walls to the crib to the changing table. But while there's an infinite supply of bedding sets that appeal to your taste in decorating, those sets might not be safe. In fact, the breathing hazards presented by soft, cushy bedding have caused organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend against using plush pillows, blankets and bumpers.
Creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby is easy, and you can rest easy - or as easily as new parents can - knowing that your baby is both comfortable and safe. Consider these tips to give your baby the best sleeping environment.
* Always place your baby on her back whenever you're laying her down to sleep. Since the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched its "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, urging parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, deaths from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) have been reduced by nearly half, according to a study published in the journal "Pediatrics" in March 2012. Whether it's nap time or night time, this is the safest position.
* Use a crib that meets current safety standards. While there might be sentimental value attached to a crib passed down through generations of family members, it's not likely to meet the most up-to-date ideas of safety. Even if you have a modern crib, it's important to pay attention to recalls - millions of drop-side cribs have been recalled in recent years. To see if your crib has been affected, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov.
* In your crib, place a firm mattress that fits in place snugly. Try out the "two finger test" - if mom can fit two or more fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, the mattress is too small.
* Choose a bedding set that supports baby's safety. Quilt and bumper sets might be cute, but the importance of safe sleep for your baby should be paramount. A simple sheet is enough for your baby's crib, when combined with a comforting wearable blanket that keeps baby feeling secure. Crib sets offered by Halo have won multiple awards for safety and include SleepSack wearable blankets, crib sheets and a decorative crib skirt. More information can be found at HaloCribSet.com.
* Breastfeed, if possible, but when finished, put baby back to sleep in her own safe sleep area near your bed. It's perfectly fine to share a room, but sharing a bed presents hazards for your baby.
* Encourage your baby to use a pacifier, once breastfeeding has been established. Pacifier use has been reported to be associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
* Don't dress baby too warmly for sleep, even if that's what you think is comfortable. Keeping baby's temperature at a safe level is important, so avoid overdressing and keep the room temperature at 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a SleepSack will also help to keep baby's temperature regulated all night long.
* Never put your baby down for sleep - either for a nap or overnight - on any soft surface or furniture, such as sofas, chairs, adult beds, quilts or sheepskins.
It's easy to feel as though you should give your baby a soft, snuggly place to sleep, but taking a practical and informed approach to baby's sleep environment is best. When it comes to what's safest, remember to decorate the room, not the crib. For more information about safe sleep for your baby, visit www.halosleep.com.