Courtesy of MultiCare Health System
Each year, approximately 3,500 healthy babies in the United States die in unsafe sleep environments.
Safe sleep practices protect children not only from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but also from suffocation, strangulation or entrapment. These sleep-related deaths share similar risk factors and are most common in babies under 6 months of age, peaking between 1 and 4 months.
Erin Summa, Health Promotion Coordinator for the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety, teaches the “ABC’s of Safe Sleep.”
“Babies sleep safest when they are alone, on their back, in a safe crib,” Summa says. When babies fall asleep in swings, bouncers or car seats, she advises moving them into a crib as soon as possible.
Beyond the ABC’s, Summa shares the following safety tips, based on recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• Place your baby on their back for every sleep — naps and nighttime.
• Use a crib/bassinet with a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet. Make sure it meets current federal safety standards (crib standards were improved in 2011).
• Keeping baby’s crib in your room is protective against SIDS, but avoid bringing the baby into your bed, or falling asleep while holding a baby.
• Keep the crib clear of soft items, like bumper pads, pillows and loose blankets.
• Have baby wear what they need to stay warm, but be careful not to overbundle because overheating increases SIDS risk. Look for wearable blankets or sleep sacks.
• Breastfeed baby as long as you can.
• Offer a pacifier for sleep times.
• Do not allow smoking around your baby.
• Vaccinate baby on schedule.
One topic that has gained momentum is the use of “baby boxes,” based on a practice originating in Finland. Although the cardboard boxes have received a lot of media attention, Summa points out that there are many reasons Finland has lower infant mortality rates along with universal health care, generous family leave and comprehensive support and education.
“We just don’t know if the boxes themselves deserve any credit for these successes, especially considering that few Finnish babies actually sleep in them,” she said. “The data just isn’t there.”
She reminds parents that current low-cost options, like portable cribs, meet all federal safety standards and will last much longer than a box that will be outgrown in a few short months.
“Not only do I worry about babies outgrowing the boxes while still at risk for SIDS,” she says, “but frankly I’m just not convinced they are a safe choice.”
MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 18,000 employees, providers and volunteers. Visit multicare.org.