The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions parents to keep their babies' cribs free from obstructions that could impede breathing. So, when can babies sleep with a stuffed animal?
In this blog post, we’ll discuss when it is appropriate for young babies to sleep with a stuffed animal and other soft objects like crib bumpers. And we’ll provide some helpful tips for using them safely.
When Can Babies Sleep With A Stuffed Animal?
When your baby reaches 12 months old, they can sleep with a small, lightweight stuffed toy in the bed. This is because, around this age, babies will have gained enough strength and coordination to move away from the stuffed animal if it is obstructing their breathing.
However, until 12 months old, the AAP recommends avoiding baby toys in your baby’s crib. This means that babies should not sleep with a stuffed animal or on giant stuffed animal beds before this age. They may be unable to move away from any items that are blocking their breathing.
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Tips For Using Stuffed Animals Safely
Although stuffed animals can be a great comfort for babies, they should always be used safely so that your baby remains safe while sleeping. Here are some tips to follow when using stuffed animals:
- Place the stuffed animal on the side of the bed away from where your infant will be sleeping.
- Get the right infant stuffed animal. Make sure the stuffed animal is lightweight and no larger than a pillow.
- Check regularly for rips and tears that could become choking hazards for your infant.
- The right stuffed animal should be made with hypoallergenic materials. They reduce dust mites and other allergens.
- Wash the stuffed animal often to remove any dirt, dust, or bacteria.
Finally, it's important to let your child sleep on their back in a crib, with no loose items that could block their breathing.
So, it’s ok to put stuffed toys in your child's sleep space once they reach 12 months of age. Nevertheless, always ensure that the bed and surrounding area are clear of any other items or obstructions.
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Other Ways To Comfort Your Baby
There are several ways to comfort your baby without taking soft toys to bed. They are:
1. A Consistent Bedtime Routine
Creating and following a consistent bedtime routine for your baby is a great way to help them settle into sleep. The benefits of establishing a consistent routine are huge: research has shown that babies who have this type of rhythm in their day tend to sleep better.
When children know what’s coming next, it helps them feel secure and builds confidence, comfort, and trust with the caregivers. Additionally, when your baby develops the habit of falling asleep it will be easier for you to surrender when parenting moments cause their distress. This is because feeling secure in their bedtime routine can be enough to help overcome frustration quickly.
2. Comforting Music or White Noise
Playing soothing music or gentle white noise can be a great way to help your baby sleep. Research indicates that babies have an affinity to certain tones of music, so try playing different lullabies and songs until you see your baby start to relax or even doze off.
It's ok if the music is not nursery rhymes! Any calming melody with a single pitch held for around 8-10 seconds will usually do the trick.
Similarly, moderate levels of white noise from nature such as gentle waves, wind chimes tinkling, birdsong, or running water can create a lovely ambiance. It can make your baby feel safe and secure, encouraging them to drift off into peaceful slumber.
Whichever option or combination you choose, just remember to keep the volume at a low level so that it does not disturb your newborn's sleep since hearing loud noises can cause him/her distress.
Swaddling is an ancient technique used to help soothe babies by recreating the feeling of the womb. It involves securely swaddling the baby’s upper body and arms with a breathable fabric, leaving their legs free so they can move around easily.
Studies have shown that babies who are swaddled feel more secure and eventually fall asleep faster. This is because swaddling helps prevents them from startling awake as it restricts their movement, allowing them to remain in a deep sleep throughout the night.
While there are a variety of methods of swaddling available, one key benefit is its versatility. Parents can modify the level of snugness depending on the size and age of their baby as well as their individual needs.
Swaddling is easy to learn, just remember to make sure your baby’s arms and legs remain uncovered so that they don’t overheat. And always ensure it stays securely below their chin and above their feet.
4. Pacifier Use
Pacifiers have long been an effective tool in soothing babies and helping them drift off to a peaceful sleep. Not only do pacifiers provide comforting physical and psychological effects, but research has shown that the use of a pacifier can also reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
To help comfort your baby while they are sleeping, allowing them to practice self-soothing skills, gently place the pacifier in their mouth. For younger babies, be sure to supervise their sleep - if it falls out, quickly put it back in.
You should not rely on a pacifier to get your baby to sleep for long periods as this could lead to unhealthy habits over time. Therefore, even with pacifier use, establish a regular bedtime routine and consistent expectations for your little one’s sleeping habits.
5. Skin-to-Skin Contact
Spending time skin-to-skin with your baby can encourage relaxation and comforting sleep.
6. Cuddles and Massage
Babies love cuddles and gentle massages before bedtime to help ease their body and mind into sleep. With gentle caresses, your baby will soon begin to recognize the rhythm of your touch and understand that it is time for rest.
Stuffed animals can be a great comfort for babies once they reach 12 months old, provided you use them safely. By following these simple guidelines and adhering to the AAP’s recommendations, you can ensure your baby is safe when sleeping with a stuffed animal.
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