Simple steps to safe sleep for babies
October 30, 2014
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. Unexplained death among seemingly healthy babies is shocking, scary and utterly heartbreaking. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, which has also been called "crib death," since most cases of SIDS occur while an infant is sleeping.
"The number-one thing parents can do to prevent SIDS is to consistently put their children to sleep on their backs," says Laurale Cross, RN NNP-BC, administrative director of Women's Services at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. "Equally important is telling all of the baby's caregivers to put the child to sleep on his or her back."
About one in five SIDS deaths happen while an infant is in the care of someone other than a parent, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Babysitters, grandparents and other child-care providers might place an infant on his or her stomach, which pediatricians call "unaccustomed tummy sleeping." This increases the risk of SIDS; babies who are used to sleeping on their backs and are placed to sleep on their stomachs are 18 times more likely to die from SIDS.
"Be relentless," says Cross. "Before you leave your baby with anyone, make sure the caregiver understands and will follow the safe-sleep practice of placing your child to sleep on his or her back."
The AAP further notes that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress and fitted sheet; never place your child to sleep on an adult bed, chair, pillows or sofa. It's important that the crib is free from toys, soft bedding, blankets and pillows. Loose bedding, such as sheets and blankets, should never be used as these items can impair the infant's ability to breathe if they are close to his face. "Wearable blankets or sleep sacks are highly preferable to loose blankets placed over an infant," says Cross.
Every baby born at Valley View Hospital is discharged with a HALO SleepSack, which is a wearable blanket that infants can't kick off. The lightweight sack swaddles baby, promoting a good night's sleep. Newborns also sleep in them while staying at the hospital. "We use the Halo SleepSacks here in the hospital and send each family home with a new one," says Cross.
In fact, dressing a baby lightly for sleep is another way to promote healthy sleep practices in your home. "You don't want your infant waking up flushed and sweaty, so set the room temperature that is moderate—not too cold and not too hot," says Cross. Also key: Never put your child to bed with a pacifier attached to a clip or cord, which could end up wound around your infant's neck. You never want to put your child to bed with anything that might be a strangulation hazard.
While doctors don't know definitively what causes SIDS, they do know it isn't caused by immunizations, choking or vomiting. Back sleeping—as well as avoiding exposing your baby to smoke before and after the child is born—can help reduce the risk.
"Tummy time has its place," notes Cross. For example, when an infant is alert and happy during the day, placing a baby on the floor on his or her stomach can help build strong neck and shoulder muscles, important for growth and development. "But when it's time to sleep, it's all about placing a child on his or her back."