Safe sleep and sweet dreams

By Ruth Brown, NEST Partnership Coordinator

October is Safe Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. Practicing safe sleep with your infant can help protect them from airway restriction while sleeping, which can be a contributing factor to SIDS and infant deaths from unsafe sleeping conditions.

Contributing factors for SIDS

Research about the causes of SIDS is ongoing, but a combination of three factors, called the Triple-Risk Model, is used by researchers as a framework for what may cause an infant to die in their sleep unexpectedly:

  • Vulnerable infant. Certain factors — such as defects in the parts of the brain that control breathing, heart rate or genetic mutations can make an infant vulnerable.
  • Critical developmental period. During an infant’s first 6 months of life, rapid growth and changes occur. These changes may be evident (like sleep schedule changes), or they may be subtle (like changes in breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature). Some of these changes may make an infant’s body system unstable for short periods of time during sleep.
  • Outside stressor(s). Most babies can survive sleep stressors, like overheating, secondhand smoke or an upper respiratory infection. However, an already vulnerable infant may not be able to overcome them. Although these stressors are not the sole causes of infant death, they may increase the risk for an infant that is already vulnerable.

Source: National Institutes of Health

The Triple-Risk Model encourages parents to practice safe sleep, whether an infant is considered vulnerable or not.

Safe sleep practices to consider

The American Academy of Pediatrics lists recommendations to maintain a safe sleeping environment for your infant:

  • Your baby should be alone on their sleep surface. No toys, blankets, pillows or people.
  • Your baby should be put down to sleep on their back.
  • Your baby should be in a crib or other flat, firm surface like a bassinet or pack n play.

These recommendations minimize the risk of airway restriction and suffocation while sleeping. Other considerations include selecting a crib approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, opting for room sharing instead of bed sharing and moving an infant to an approved sleep surface as soon as possible if they fall asleep somewhere else, like in a car seat.

The AAP also recommends breastfeeding your infant, if possible and to avoid smoking.

Talk to your childcare facility about safe sleep

When someone else cares for your baby, it is important to ensure they are following safe sleep practices as well. Before choosing a childcare facility, consider asking these questions:

  • Does the childcare facility recognize the above American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for safe sleep?
  • Does the facility allow more than one infant in a bassinet, crib or pack n play?

Infants should sleep alone always regardless of where or what they are sleeping in.

  • If provided, where does tummy time take place?

Tummy time should always occur on the floor and with supervision from the parent or caregiver.

  • Does the parent or guardian need to provide any supplies for naps, such as a sleep sack or pacifier?
  • What would facility staff do if a baby fell asleep in a car seat, swing or bouncy seat?

If your baby falls asleep in their car seat they should always be moved to their safe sleep place when possible.

  • What is the sleep protocol for babies who are congested or sick?

Even when your baby is sick the safest place for them is on their back. Another recommendation to ensure your baby is able to rest is for a caregiver to hold them upright on their chest but ensuring they do not fall asleep with them.

  • Will infants be exposed to anyone who smokes (staff member, other parents, etc.)?

If the answer is yes, what is the facility’s protocol to keep newborns and infants from being exposed to smoke or secondhand smoke?

By ensuring your baby is in a safe sleeping environment, you can have better peace of mind when you step away and let them rest. Safe sleep equals sweet dreams!

About the NEST Partnership

NEST stands for nurture, empower, support and teach. The NEST Partnership program provides free nurse visits for qualified families, both during and after pregnancy. Services are delivered in the home during scheduled visits. We answer questions, monitor blood pressure and weight, connect families with community resources and teach ways to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby.

Our mission is to strengthen families through the power of community.

For more safe sleep resources or to get connected with the NEST Partnership, visit our website and follow us on Facebook.

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