The Safe to Sleep campaign is an initiative backed by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to encourage parents to have their infants sleep on their backs (supine position) to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Part of my role as a home visitor is to educate families on safe sleep and SIDS. The topic of child loss is never easy to discuss but even more difficult when you’ve lost one yourself. My son passed at the age of 14, so certainly not a baby, but loss is loss. When I began this job, I worried talking about it daily would be a difficult part of what I was expected to do.
Would it be too painful to discuss, knowing the subject would ultimately bring to mind my son each and every time?
What I’ve experienced instead is that it has been one small way I can make a difference. If the education helps save even one child, it is worth the uncomfortable feelings and painful memories. Every time.
As I approach the topic for this piece, during SIDS awareness month, I do so knowing this season is difficult for many. My intention and prayer is not to cause any extra pain but only to bring education to those expecting or with new babies at home. It is my hope those of you who read and support Still Standing will share.
Since “Safe to Sleep” was launched in 1994, the incidence of SIDS has declined by more than 50% but the statistics are still staggering. Approximately 3,400 infants die of SIDS or other sleep-related deaths in the US every year. In 2013, SIDS was the leading cause of death in children between 1 month and 1 year of age.
Below are tips to share with parents and caregivers to help reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths.
Remembering the ABCs can help ensure your baby is safely sleeping.
A – Alone As much as it is precious holding a sleeping baby, the safest way for baby to sleep for naps and at nighttime is by themselves. Rock and hold your baby but when they are asleep, put them down alone. However, having the baby share your room is approved and suggested. Room sharing is much safer than bed sharing and may decrease the risk of SIDS by half.
B – Back Back to sleep, tummy to play. Some parents may worry that a baby who sleeps on his or her back will choke if they spit up during sleep. Babies’ anatomy and gag reflex will prevent them from choking while sleeping on their backs. Babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their sides or stomachs.
C – Crib Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib or bassinet, covered only by a fitted sheet. While it is normal to want to provide soft blankets, teddy bears and other comfort items for a sleeping baby all these pose suffocation hazards. If you’re worried about your baby being cold in the winter months, use a safe-sleep approved sack or swaddling blanket. An empty crib is the safest environment.
D – Dangers Don’t allow smoking around your baby, especially where they sleep. Smoke in the baby’s surroundings is a major risk factor for SIDS. Quitting smoking can be hard, but it is one of the best ways parents and caregivers can protect their health and their baby’s health. For help in quitting, call the quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
- If you bring your baby into your bed to breastfeed, put him or her back into a separate sleep area in your room when finished.
- Try giving your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS.
- Don’t use products, like special mattresses or wedges, that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that they do.
- If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, or infant carrier, move him or her to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible.
- Babies who usually sleep on their backs, but who are then placed to sleep on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS. So it is important for everyone who cares for babies to always place them on their backs to sleep, for naps and at night, to reduce the risk of SIDS.
A SIDS death occurs quickly and is almost always associated with sleep. Unfortunately, any baby can die from SIDS, although the risk greatly decreases after six months of age. SIDS is not preventable, but the risk can be greatly decreased by placing a baby on his/her back to sleep on a firm surface with no blankets or other objects in the crib.
*Tips courtesy of March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Charlie’s Kids
Photo credit: PhotoMIX-Company/Pixabay