The ABCs of Safe Sleep  

This article is brought to us by our partners at The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Written by Kelley Parris, Executive Director, The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.

small baby practicing safe sleep on his back

Before it’s time to teach a child his ABCs, parents, and caregivers need to know the crucially important ABCs of safe sleep.

Unsafe sleep practices, including co-sleeping, continue to be a leading cause of preventable infant deaths in our community. In fact, 14 Tampa Bay infants died from unsafe sleep practices in 2018.

Babies should always be put to sleep Alone, on their Backs, and in a Crib. The ABCs of safe sleep minimizes the risk of the infant suffocating. Especially if they have not yet developed neck muscle control.

Additional ways to keep your child safe:

  • Never co-sleep. Co-sleeping, which means having babies sleep in the same bed as parents, siblings or caregivers, is often the cause of sleep-related infant death. When co-sleeping, a baby may suffocate if an adult unintentionally rolls on top of them or if the baby is up against a pillow or blanket. More infants die in adult beds than anywhere else. And infants are 40 times more likely to die in an adult bed than in their own crib.
  • Bring the crib into the parent or caregiver’s room. Sharing a room with a child offers almost all of the same benefits of sharing a bed but without the risks. The recommendation is to bring the baby’s crib, or a smaller bassinet, into the parents’ room for the first year of the baby’s life.
  • Follow crib setup recommendations. A crib’s mattress should be firm and fit snugly inside the crib’s frame. Crib sheets should fit tightly around the mattress. A baby’s sleeping area should be free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, sleep positioners and toys.
    baby sleeping on back in a playpen
  • Be prepared for naptime and bedtime away from home. Make plans for proper sleeping arrangements. This could include things like a crib or pack-n-play with a fitted sheet if your child sleeps at someone else’s home, such as with grandparents or other caregivers. Never use a blow-up mattress, recliner, couch or adult bed, which poses a significant danger to infants.
  • Learn from the past. As more information becomes available, parents and caregivers must let go of some outdated practices. This is in order to provide children with the safest environment possible for sleeping. Habits about car seats and lead paint have changed; it’s now time to change co-sleeping habits.

It’s important that caregivers, babysitters, relatives or anyone else caring for a baby know the ABCs of safe sleep, too. 

Even one preventable child death is too many. For more information on sleep safety and ways to prevent needless child deaths, visit