In the 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and other organizations, launched the Back to Sleep campaign that was aimed at reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Although this campaign has decreased the number of SIDS deaths during the last few decades, there seems to be an increase in the number of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID). Many of these deaths are attributed to sleep-related causes such as accidental suffocation or entrapments from sleeping environments.
With this rise, the national campaign was renamed the Safe to Sleep campaign and emphasizes not only sleep positioning on the back for infants but also other factors to create a safe sleep environment. It is very important to ensure a safe sleeping environment for infants in order to prevent sleep-related deaths.
The following are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure your baby is in a safe sleep environment and lessen the risk of an unexpected death.
• Your infant always should be placed on his or her back to sleep. Lying on his or her side is not advised for young infants, as it can lead to accidentally rolling over onto the stomach, possibly blocking the ability to breathe.
• A firm crib mattress with a fitted sheet is the safest surface. Sleeping on soft surfaces such as pillows, adult beds and sofas could lead to a suffocation injury. Make sure to use a crib, bassinet or portable crib that meets required safety standards. There should be no gaps between the mattress and the sides of the crib. Gaps can entrap the infant.
• Your baby is safest if sharing a room with you but not sharing a bed with you. Bed-sharing can cause overlay injuries by the parent and accidental suffocation. There are several other options, such as bassinets, portable cribs or bedside sleepers that will allow your baby to stay close to you.
• Although cute and cuddly, soft objects such as stuffed animals, blankets and bumpers pose a danger for your sleeping infant. These objects potentially can cover the face and obstruct breathing, leading to suffocation. The best option is to place the infant in the crib without any other objects present. Remember to decorate the room, not the crib. Sleep sacks are safer options than loose blankets in the crib.
• Second-hand smoke exposure increases your baby’s risk of SIDS. It is recommended that your family have strict rules for a smoke-free home.
• Breastfeeding has been shown to be more protective against the risk of SIDS than not breastfeeding. If possible, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
• Studies have shown that pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS, and it is recommended a pacifier be used when the infant is placed to sleep. If the pacifier falls out of the mouth while the infant is sleeping, it does not need to be reinserted. Because of the risk of strangulation and suffocation, pacifiers should not be hung around the baby’s neck, and stuffed toys should not be attached to pacifiers. If you are breastfeeding your baby, make sure breastfeeding has been well established before introducing a pacifier.
• Avoid letting your baby get too hot. Your infant should be lightly dressed for sleep and should have no more than one layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in that environment.
• In addition to protecting your baby from illnesses, studies have shown that having your baby properly immunized decreases your baby’s risk of SIDS.
• Your baby needs “tummy time,” as it helps the head and neck muscles become stronger. Place your baby on his or her stomach when awake and someone is watching.
Please talk about safe sleep practices with all family members and caregivers who may be caring for your baby in your absence. Before leaving your baby with anyone, make sure they agree to safe sleep practices.
Remember the ABCs of Safe Sleep. Infants are safest when sleeping Alone, on their Backs and in their Cribs. For additional information, visit the SIDS Network of Kansas website at www.sidsks.org.