Many sleep-deprived new parents find themselves on the ever-elusive hunt for an uninterrupted night of shuteye. White noise, black out curtains, a room temperature that’s just-so, and a bedtime routine consisting of equal parts bath and story time and probable voodoo magic promise to do the trick.
While many ingredients might aid the journey towards a better night’s sleep, there’s one that can save your baby’s life, too – and that’s the use of a fan.
How Can a Fan Save My Baby’s Life?
While it’s never a fun thing to think about, it’s important to recognize that SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants under one year old in the United States.
Researchers are consistently searching for both the cause of SIDS and recommendations for parents to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. While no one has been able to confidently point the finger at a single culprit, one factor that has been found to play a role is inadequate ventilation in a baby’s room.
What’s the Risk Associated With a Lack of Air Flow?
A lack of ventilation can allow for a buildup of carbon dioxide. When babies exhale, factors like poor airflow, loose bedding, side or stomach sleeping, or having anything that covers their head can result in higher levels of carbon dioxide getting trapped near their nose and mouth and being breathed back in. A study published in 2009 in The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that running a fan in the room during a baby’s sleep reduced their risk of SIDS by 72%.
Does the Type of Fan Matter?
In the quest for adequate air circulation in your baby’s nursery, you may wonder if a ceiling fan or portable fan is the best option. While either will do the trick, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when making your choice.
- If you choose to use a portable fan such as a tower fan or table fan, be sure that it has a stable base and is placed in a spot where little fingers won’t be able to reach fan blades or even the unit itself. Likewise, make sure power cords are well out of your baby’s reach. Honeywell makes a nice inexpensive table fan and Dyson makes beautiful fans that don't use blades. (I have a Dyson review here.)
- Nursery ceiling fans may be more effective in circulating air in larger spaces, particularly during warmer months when overheating is a risk factor. Hunter is a popular ceiling fan brand. A portable fan may be a good option in smaller rooms.
Can the Fan Be Pointed at the Baby?
Regardless of the fan you choose, point it away from your baby’s crib to keep them comfortable and to allow for the air to circulate throughout the room.
Should a Fan Be Used All Year Round?
Whether you use a portable fan or a ceiling fan, either can be used year round. During the winter months, you may choose to lower the fan speed and provide your baby with an extra layer of clothing to keep them warm.
What Else Can I Do to Reduce the Risk of SIDS?
In addition to making sure that your baby has a well-ventilated room, there are a few other important factors to keep in mind to reduce SIDS risk in your newborn.
- Cool Room - While there is no particular temperature that experts have landed on as being “the one”, anything lower than 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) seems to be ideal. A cooler room temperature then adding an extra layer of clothing is what's recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- No Extras - Avoid having extra items such as blankets, hats, quilts, pillows or toys in your baby’s crib.
- Firm Mattress - Make sure that your baby has a firm mattress for sleep.
- Back to Sleep - Always put your baby to sleep on their back; never on their side or stomach.
- Use a Pacifier - Even if the pacifier falls out after your baby is asleep.
- Smoke-free Environment - Smoke in your baby's environment is a significant risk factor for SIDS.
The Verdict on Whether You Should Have a Fan in Your Baby’s Room
Portable fans or ceiling fans can help prevent overheating and increase air circulation to stop carbon dioxide buildup near your little’s mouth and nose – both of which can be risk factors in cases of SIDS.
Fans can be used year-round and provide the added benefit of doubling as a white noise machine, so it's absolutely worth adding one to your baby's room.
Our next reco: Checklist: Setting Up a Safe Sleep Space