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Safe Sleep for Your Child

Posted 10/25/2017 by UHBlog

Does worry about SIDS prompt you to check your infant’s crib several times a night? Ask us how to create a sleep environment that will help babies and parents rest easier.

Safe Sleep for Your Child

The statistics about sleep-related infant deaths are enough to rob any new parent of much-needed shuteye. According to the Ohio Department of Health, three children under the age of 1 die from sleep-related deaths each week.

Between 2008 and 2012, the breakdown of those deaths include:

  • 17 percent from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • 35 percent by asphyxia
  • 48 percent undetermined

A closer look reveals:

  • 56 percent were boys
  • 41 percent were African American
  • 88 percent were under 6 months of age
  • 24 percent were sleeping in a crib or bassinette
  • 61 percent were sleeping in an unsafe area, such as an adult bed, sofa or chair
  • 55 percent were sharing a sleep surface with an adult

“Each year we lose the equivalent of seven kindergarten classes of kids to sleep-related deaths in the state,” says pediatric hospitalist Erin Frank, MD. “In other words, if those children had lived to age 5, they would fill seven classrooms.”

In the past, most sleep-related infant deaths were attributed to SIDS when, in fact, they were due to asphyxia (suffocation) from unsafe sleep environments. Today, SIDS is defined as any unexplained death under 12 months of age that occurs when there is no known medical condition and the baby is sleeping in the proper setting.

Many sleep-related deaths can be prevented by following the ABC rule: Babies should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.

Dr. Frank advocates following these expanded guidelines as well:

  1. If you’re concerned about being away from your baby while she sleeps, move a suitable crib or bassinette into your bedroom, but never allow her to spend the night in your bed. You could unconsciously roll over her or she could get smothered by pillows or blankets. Don’t nap with her on a couch or chair either.
  2. Make sure the baby’s crib is firm and free of soft toys, bedding or bumper pads.
  3. Place your infant on his back, even when he is able to roll over.
  4. Dress the infant in light pajamas and keep the room temperature cool.
  5. Breastfeed.
  6. Don’t allow anyone to smoke around the baby.
  7. Immunize your child.
  8. Allow your baby to use a pacifier.
    “It’s not completely clear why, but pacifiers seem to reduce the risk of sleep-related death,” Dr. Frank says. “But don’t introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established.”
  9. Don’t feed honey to a child under the age of one.
  10. Don’t rely on products that claim to reduce SIDS, such as bassinettes designed for co-sleeping or devices that monitor the baby’s breathing.
    “They’re not shown to reduce the rate of anything,” Dr. Frank says. “They also falsely alarm and scare families.”

Parents must insist these guidelines are followed when their baby is under the care of grandparents, daycare providers or babysitters. If the child is being cared for outside of home, parents should make sure the crib or equivalent (such as a pack-and-play) is in a safe, cool area and is free of toys or bedding.

“Parents need to understand how important it is to advocate for their child and not to entrust their child to anyone who isn’t willing to follow safe sleep guidelines,” Dr. Frank says.

If grandparents or other caregivers give pushback, citing their own parenting experience, Dr. Frank recommends gently reminding them that medical knowledge evolves.

“Sure, not every baby that sleeps on the belly will pass away but studies show a much higher percentage slept in this position will,” she says. “We used to let babies ride home from the hospital on Mom’s lap and that wouldn’t be acceptable now. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and we have better ways to keep babies safe.”

Erin Frank, MD is a pediatric hospitalist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Frank or any other doctor online.

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