Parents of young children are faced with a seemingly endless list of safety and health related concerns to consider from feedings to car seats to vaccines to cribs. The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, confusing and conflicting. Safe sleep is no exception. Without a safe sleep environment even the most well-meaning parents are missing the mark on healthy sleep. The folks at Smart Parent Advice have nicely summed up the challenge that so many of us face as parents regarding safe sleep in this article.
We agree with Smart Parent Advice that the importance of a safe sleep environment cannot be overstated. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Safe to Sleep Program aims to help parents and caregivers weed through all the information and misinformation by providing a clear and consistent message about safe sleep.
According to the NICHD, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the number 1 cause of death in babies ages 1 month to 1 year. Thanks to the very successful Back to Sleep campaign created in 1996 to reduce to number of these deaths we now put our babies to sleep on their backs and have consequently reduced the incidence of SIDS. However, while SIDS deaths are down considerably in the United States we still see far too many deaths. Researchers do not know exactly what causes SIDS, however, we do know that certain, easy, precautions can help reduce these numbers even further. In hopes of reducing the number of sleep related deaths, the NICHD launched the Safe to Sleep campaign. The campaign does not replace Back to Sleep, but instead builds upon its crucial message by continuing to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs for EVERY sleep. In addition, Safe to Sleep has added two more important guidelines to focus on reducing the number of other sleep related deaths.
First, babies should be placed on a firm, safety approved, sleep surface with a tight fitting sheet. These surfaces can include cribs, bassinets or portable play yards as long as they are currently safety approved specifically for sleep (visit cpsc.gov for updated safety information). Further, while it may be tempting, babies should never be placed on a couch, bed or other soft surface, or in a car seat, swing, carrier or other device to sleep. The campaign recommends that babies sleep in a separate but nearby sleep area, such as in a bassinet in the parents’ room, for up to 1 year whenever possible.
Second, the sleeping area should be completely free of all bumpers, loose bedding, blankets, pillows, toys and other objects. In short, the crib should be completely empty until 12 months of age.
The Safe to Sleep campaign goes on to outline other ways you can reduce your risk:
*get prenatal care
*breastfeed baby if possible
*offer a pacifier not attached to a strap at sleep times
*do not smoke around baby
*do not allow baby to get overheated during sleep- room should be cool at around 68 degrees
*follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations on vaccines avoid products that claim to aid in reduction of SIDS or other sleep related deaths
*do not rely on home heart or breathing monitors unless prescribed by your healthcare provider
*provide baby with lots of supervised tummy time during wakeful periods
Ensuring your child has a safe sleeping environment from the start will allow you to focus on building healthy sleep habits.
For more information on the Safe to Sleep campaign and safe sleeping guidelines please visit http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sids/ and talk with your healthcare provider.