For first time parents, sleep is hard to come by.
"We're in three hour increments right now," said first time mother Brooke Henson.
As parents leave the hospital and newborns settle in at home, doctors warn of the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 3,500 infants die annually in the United States from sleep related issues, including SIDS.
SIDS is described as the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. It happens without warning, usually during sleep. The exact cause is unknown, but researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics have discovered some factors that may put babies at extra risk.
There are physical factors like brain abnormalities, low birth weight or respiratory infection that can all contribute to breathing problems while the baby sleeps.
But one thing new parents can control is their baby's sleep environment, removing anything around that could obstruct the baby's breathing. That means keep the crib bare. No bumpers, blankets or stuffed animals should be inside.
"Babies really should sleep on a flat surface with just a tight fitted sheet, and we want them on their backs. Backs is best," said Sherry Iverson, a registered nurse and director of children's community education at St. Luke's Children's Hospital.
However, if you look around online, in stores or even on TV, an empty crib is not what you often see.
"When we were first designing the nursery I had a bunch of ideas, and of course I was on Pinterest all the time. But when they're decorating the crib they have bumpers and animals in there, and they have quilts hanging from the sides. All of that is really pretty and you get your heart set on those things. Then when you get home, really it's just a sheet and the mattress," Henson said.
"We've recently been looking at magazines to see, does anyone show a safe sleep environment to parents? Nowhere. Nowhere can you say, 'Oh, that's what my nursery is supposed to look like,'" Iverson said.
And doctors say don't even worry about the nursery to begin with. For at least the first six months, babies should sleep in the same room as their parents, in a crib or pack and play.
"The research says, if the baby is in your room, not in your bed, but in your room, you are more aware of their breathing patterns, you hear them start to rustle and move in their sleep cycles, and there is also some concern that the baby could hear your breathing and that might help for stability," Iverson said.
Iverson also says babies should be put to bed with a pacifier after the first three to four weeks, once breastfeeding is established.
"That seems to regulate their heartbeat and work on their breathing," Iverson continued.
While the plain, empty crib may look different, hospitals in Finland have found success sending parents home with a simple cardboard box for their baby to sleep in. The Baby Box Company has now brought that same idea to America. Hospitals in Alabama, New Jersey, Ohio and most recently Texas, are providing the Baby Box to new families.
In Idaho, St. Luke's reaches out to parents in birth classes, informing families of safe sleep habits for at least the baby's first year. Every newborn is sent home in a sleeper sack, a way for babies to stay warm without a loose blanket in the crib.
"You can zip them in and do a little bit of swaddling of the upper arms, and you don't have to worry about them getting unwrapped in a blanket," Iverson said.
And another warning for parents, if you're feeling sleepy while holding your baby, be extra cautious.
"Some things you often don't think about. Don't go to sleep with your baby in the recliner. You're tired and exhausted, but recliners leave big pockets easy for babies to roll off into. And you might think your bed is safe. But beds often have duvet covers and lots of pillows, and that makes a really hard sleep environment for little ones if they get that air trapped and can't breathe," Iverson warned.
Doctors say, as a parent, be an advocate for your child. Enforce the safe sleep guidelines in your own home and outside the home, at your child care provider too.
"It takes a brave parent to say, 'No, this is what we're going to do,'" Iverson said.
For more safety tips and information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics page here .
For a complete calendar of parenting classes at St. Luke's visit here .