Jessica puts baby Noah to sleep in his beautiful crib like she does every evening. She lays him gently in bed, kisses him good night, and gives him his favorite blankets. Later in the night, she comes back to check on him like she always does. The horrible tragedy that follows will scar her life forever. Unfortunately, such unbelievably sad stories happen more often than we may think. With that in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently updated its safe sleep recommendations to prevent sleep related infant deaths.
By 2015, death caused by suffocation and strangulation in bed corresponded to 25% of all Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs). Among the causes of possible unexpected deaths, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed has been the only one which has slightly increased in the past 10 years.
This led the American Academy of Pediatrics to update their safe sleep recommendations by the end of 2016. In this paper, they state that by following a handful of simple steps parents can considerably reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths.
The Safe Sleep Checklist
- Put your baby to sleep on her/his back – This is recommended to all infants under 12 months of age. The paper explicitly states that side sleeping is not safe for infants;
- Use a firm sleep surface – Place your mattress on a firm sleep surface, like a safety-approved crib. Use fitted crib sheets as they reduce the risk of suffocation. In addition, do not use other blankets, loose sheets, pillows, or toys in or around the crib;
- Breastfeeding Reduces The Risk of SUIDs – The data shows that breastfeeding and its protective effects reduces the chance of SUIDs. Therefore, the AAP recommends that breastfeeding should be the only form of feeding for 6 months. However, the AAP notes that any breastfeeding shows to be more protective than no breastfeeding;
- Infants should sleep on a separate bed but close to the parents’ bed – A safe baby bed is placed close to the parents’ bed, preferably in the same room. However, infants should not sleep on their parents’ bed as it increases the risks of suffocation and strangulation. Ideally, the infant’s mini crib, portable crib, bassinet, should be in the parents’ bedroom at least until the baby reaches 1 year of age;
- Keep objects and other bedding off the crib area – Parents should keep pillows, loose sheets, non-fitted sheets, blankets, etc., away from safe sleep area. Wearable blankets, like a baby sleep sack, are a better option than loose blankets to keep the baby warm. Avoid covering the baby’s head by all means.
- Pacifiers are recommended for sleep and nap time – The paper states that the use of pacifier reduces the risk of SUIDs. Therefore, the AAP recommends parents to make use of pacifiers when they put their babies to sleep. Do not hang the pacifier around the baby’s neck neither attach it to their clothes in their sleep.
- Do not smoke near or in the baby room – Avoid smoking near pregnant women or infants. Smoking near or in the baby room increases SUIDs risk. The risks are especially high when the infant shares the bed with an adult smoker. Do not use illicit drugs near the infant or in the baby room.
- Watch out for overheating – Check for signs of overheating, like sweating chest for example. Dress them appropriately for the weather. As mentioned before, if wearing a baby sleep sack avoid covering the head.
Perhaps the most important of all methods of reducing such risks is to keep educating yourself. The research continues and parents should stay tuned to the official healthcare recommendations and implement them accordingly. We all want to make sure that our precious little one has a beautiful and safe sleep. Help spread these recommendations. Let’s bring some awareness to the problem so that those tragic stories mentioned earlier become more and more a thing of the past.