Safer Sleep for Babies
By Aimee Behnke, MD, Genesis Health Group, Bettendorf Pediatrics
Aimee Behnke, MD
As a pediatrician and a parent, I can relate to the anxieties parents have about putting their infants to bed. After all, what new parent hasn't peered inside the crib of their sleeping baby to double-check if he or she is OK?
That's why I'm happy to share new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help promote safer sleep for babies.
Sharing a Bedroom with Baby
Let’s begin with the most-discussed recommendation: Infants should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents--but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet--for at least the first six months and, preferably, the first year of life. Sharing a room can decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, by as much as 50 percent, the AAP reports.
It's never a good idea to sleep in the same bed as your baby. And it's very unsafe to place an infant on a couch or a cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person.
Reinforcing Safe Sleep Habits
The new research reported Oct. 24 in "SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment" offers clearer guidance on when and how to put a baby to sleep. It also reinforces safe sleep habits we've been telling parents for the past several years:
- Place baby on his or her back on a firm surface, such as a crib or bassinet, with a tight-fitting sheet.
- Avoid soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys that could obstruct breathing or cause the baby to overheat.
- Never let a baby sleep on a sofa or armchair because he or she can slip between the cushions.
- Avoid baby's exposure to smoke, alcohol and illegal drugs.
- Breastfeeding is an added protection against SIDS. After feeding, the AAP recommends moving the baby to a separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents' bedroom.
- Vaccinations, daily supervised tummy time, and giving the baby a pacifier at nap time and bed time (but delay introduction of pacifiers until breastfeeding has been established) also were recommended--all topics to discuss with your baby's pediatrician or family physician.
Each year, approximately 3,500 infants die in the United States from sleep-related deaths, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. While infants are at heightened risk for SIDS between the ages of 1 and 4 months, new evidence shows that soft bedding continues to be hazardous to babies who are 4 months and older.
The Davenport BirthCenter
Babies born at the Genesis BirthCenter in Davenport are sent home with a HALO SleepSack to help promote safe sleep.
The BirthCenter also practices “the Golden Hour,” which is skin-to-skin contact after birth--another practice recommended in the AAP's report. Right after birth, the baby is dried off and placed skin-to-skin on the mother's bare chest. This calms mother and baby; stabilizes breathing, heart rate and blood sugar; and, stimulates the baby's natural instinct to breastfeed.
In conclusion, the new AAP recommendations aren't meant to scare parents, but give them more clear-cut ways to promote safer sleep for their babies. Practicing these precautions will give you greater peace of mind, so you can enjoy the special times that having a new baby brings.