More than 2,000 babies die unexpectedly in their sleep each year. And although it’s not always possible to prevent SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, there are some precautions parents can take to reduce the chance of suffocation and/or strangulation and to ultimately create a safe sleep environment for their infant. Dr. Heather Alden, Family Medicine Specialist at Alta View Hospital shares the recommendations for safe sleep environments.
Babies should sleep on their back at all times – including night time and nap time. Placing the baby on its back, instead of on its side or tummy, significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. Always place baby on its back first. If/when baby is able to roll over, it is not necessary to return the baby to the back position.
Sharing a room – not a bed – for the first year
For the first year, keep baby in the same room where you sleep, but not in the same bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that sleeping in the same room as baby can reduce SIDS by up to 50%. Having baby in the same room will help you sleep better at night and help you to better attend to baby’s needs. However, there is serious risk to baby when placing him or her in the same bed.
A small infant can easily be smothered by sheets, covers, and worse: being rolled over by a parent. Avoid sleeping in the same bed at all costs. And if there’s any chance you may fall asleep while soothing or feeding baby, try to go to another area where you are less likely to fall asleep and where there’s less chance of baby’s face, head or neck being covered by pillows, blankets or sheets.
Sleeping in the car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier
If baby falls asleep outside of its own bed – and its bound to happen – take the baby out as soon as possible, and place the baby on its back to sleep.
A firm sleep surface
Always place baby on a firm surface. How firm is firm enough? Make sure the area does not indent when baby is lying on it. So couches, sofas, and arm chairs are out. In addition to the risk of rolling off, they can also create a suffocation hazard.
Clearing the area
Make sure the sleep area is free of blankets, toys or other objects that could be hazardous to baby. And make sure to use a fitted sheet so baby doesn’t get tangled up. In addition, keep soft objects such as sheepskins, bumper pads, quilts, comforters, pillows, etc. out of the baby’s sleep area as these can increase risk of suffocation and/or strangulation.
Sleepwear and swaddling
Swaddling your baby is fine – and can actually help baby fall and stay asleep -- so long as baby is on its back and the swaddle is not too tight (make sure baby can breathe properly and can move its hips). When baby is starting to roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling.
If you’re worried about baby getting cold at night, wrap him or her in a wearable blanket, but avoid extra loose blankets in the sleep area. A good rule of thumb is to dress the baby in one additional layer than what you yourself are wearing. If need be, turn up the heat, but avoid covering baby with a blanket that could be hazardous.
A pacifier also reduces the risk of SIDS and can be a valuable tool in soothing baby to sleep. However, if the pacifier falls out while baby is asleep, you don’t need to replace it.
Visit www.IntermountainHealthcare.org/healthyliving for more topics.
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