How to Keep Kids Safe From Suffocation While Sleeping

baby sleeping in crib

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New parents are typically in the know about avoiding bedding in their infant's crib and providing ample tummy time while a child is awake, because infants need to be put to sleep on their backs. However, to reduce the change of suffocation, it's important to remember not to place kids in beds that are close to a wall.

Suffocation Dangers for Infants and Kids During Sleep

Toddlers and even preschoolers who sleep in a bed that is close to a wall may sometimes roll off the bed and become pinned in the tight space between the bed and wall. Bed coverings can contribute to the unsafe situation by blocking a child's breathing passage, resulting in suffocation.

Some youngsters are such sound sleepers that they may not even awaken when rolling off the bed, especially if they roll into a softly-padded area, making suffocation a sometimes silent death. Well-meaning parents may attempt to close up the space by stuffing pillows or bedding in the space between the bed and the wall. However, if a young child rolls into that area, the attempted protection may actually only increase the potential for a tragic ending.

Ensure the bed is placed far enough away from cords of window blinds or electronics as can be a strangulation hazard.

How to Reduce the Risk of Child Suffocation in Bed

To avoid the risks of child suffocation dangers relating to a bed, parents should be vigilant in protecting a child's bed space. Kids who have graduated to a toddler-sized or kid-sized bed should have their bed positioned in a center of the room, if possible, or at least a few feet away from a wall. Side bed guards can help to minimize the risk of rolling off the bed, but they aren't an absolute safeguard.

Parents should also be careful not to create a barrier that keeps a child getting out of bed safely or sheets and bedding that are tucked in so tightly or are so heavy as to create additional child suffocation risks. While your goal is to keep your child in bed all night, you want to make sure that in the event of an emergency or distress, that there is no safety barrier that could unintentionally cause harm.

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  1. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Safe Sleep for Your Baby. Published June 2017.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Helping Babies Sleep Safely. Updated June 13, 2019.