Daycare Sleep Safety for Infants: A Parents’ Guide to Selecting a Daycare that Values Safe Sleep
Whether the thought of returning to work after maternity leave has you feeling happy, sad, scared, or any combination of all the feelings, finding the right caregiver for your young baby can seem daunting. There are so many provider settings to choose from including larger centers, home daycares, and in-home support/nannies/au pairs. How do you trust a stranger to care for your most prized possession? Not very easily! While you may be well versed on the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep recommendations yourself, it’s important to assess potential daycare providers for following safe sleep practices as well.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a safe sleep environment that can reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths.”
A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that unsafe sleep practices like belly sleeping and sleeping on unapproved surfaces is more likely to occur in out of home daycare settings and that up to 20% of sudden infant death (SIDS) cases occur in out of home daycare settings. One study found that of 10,490 infant deaths between 2004 and 2014, 13.1% occurred under non-parental supervision and these babies were more likely to have been placed in a position other than their back to sleep. These findings indicate that parents must be fully informed about the sleeping practices where we choose to leave our children. This includes family members who may be caring for your baby as well especially since safety recommendations have changed over the years.
It can seem exhausting to try to narrow down your list of providers. Once you’ve decided on a setting, hit up your local on-line forums, FB parenting groups, in person playgroups, friends, and family for recommendations. This will help you get a feel for the reputation of various providers in your community and help to narrow down your list of contenders.
Next, do your research! The following tips will help you to become fully informed about whether or not a particular facility values safe sleep practices as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Many of these recommendations will also apply to hiring nannies and au pairs as well.
1. Call the department of children and families in your community to inquire about any filed violations and complaints.
2. Run your own background check on the facility as well as on any of the providers.
3. Ask around on community boards, FB pages, and other mom/family groups about others’ experiences at the specific daycares you are considering.
4. Once you have your list narrowed down, schedule tours! Use the questions below to help gauge whether the facility values safe sleep recommendations made by the AAP and CDC. They should be able to speak to safe sleep practices quickly and on the spot. Pay attention to where babies are sleeping (should only be in bassinets and cribs that are otherwise empty with only a fitted sheet) during your visit.
5. Use your mom gut! If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t!
During your tour it’s important to ask lots of questions, not only to your tour guide but also to other providers you encounter during your tour. Each provider should be able to answer these questions correctly and without hesitation!
Q: Name all of the places you would let my baby sleep
A: The correct answer is in an otherwise empty, safety-approved bassinet or crib with a fitted sheet.
Q: If my baby arrived to daycare asleep in a carrier would you let him/her continue to sleep in the carrier?
A: The correct answer is no. Sleeping in the carrier while in the car is acceptable but your baby should be transitioned to a crib or bassinet once you have arrived at your destination to complete the nap.
Q: What position will you place my baby in to fall asleep?
A: For babies under 1 year of age the correct answer is always on your baby’s back! Babies who are able to roll both from back to tummy and tummy to back can sleep on their tummies if they happen to roll themselves. Babies who are not able to roll in both directions should be returned to their backs if they happen to roll onto their tummies while sleeping or attempting to fall sleep.
Q: What if my baby appears cold while sleeping? Will you give my baby a blanket?
A: The correct answer is no for babies less than 1 year of age!
Q: What if my baby seems extra fussy while attempting to fall asleep? Will you place my baby on his/her belly to help them fall asleep?
A: The answer is NEVER for babies less than 1 year of age!
Q: What sort of monitoring do you have in place while my baby is sleeping?
A: Your baby should be monitored at all times while sleeping in a daycare environment.
Q: What will you do if my baby falls asleep in a bouncer or a swing?
A: The correct answer is that the provider will transfer your baby to an approved safe sleep surface (a crib or bassinet). While you may allow your baby to sleep in swings and other motion devices at home it is generally not a good idea to let your baby do so in an environment where you are not the one directly supervising.
This article is not meant scare you away from utilizing the daycare provider and setting of your choice and I want to make that very clear! Some of the statistics are scary but if you know the right questions to ask and what to look for, you will find a safe place for your little one! If you want to read more about the AAP’s recommendations for safe infant sleep you can check out the following article:
Moon, R.Y. “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Evidence Base for 2016 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment: The American Academy of Pediatrics Technical Report.” Pediatrics October 2016