By Jak Burke
Every parent with a newborn understands the agony of leaving a sleeping baby in her crib. How often did you tip-toe back into the nursery just to check if your little one was still breathing? Baby monitors with motion sensors can aid our anxiety but only preventative action and awareness can keep our infants safer.
Some 3,500 babies in the U.S. die unexpectedly every year while sleeping. Many experts put this down sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental deaths from suffocation or strangulation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its policy statement to include new evidence that supports: the technique of skin-to-skin care for newborns and acknowledges the use of bedside and in-bed sleepers.
Here are the recommendations:
Until the age of one (1) babies should sleep on their backs at night and during naps. Even babies with GERD gastroesophageal reflux should sleep on their backs. (An exception to this is premature babies in the NICU that may have to be temporarily placed upon their bellies due to breathing difficulties however once the difficulty has passed the infant should be placed onto his back again. A medical professional will advise you on this.)
Newborns should be placed on their mother after birth as soon as possible, especially within the first hour. This is called “skin-to-skin” and that’s exactly what it is: naked skin to skin contact.
Put your baby onto her back even if she rolls onto her stomach.
Do not have any blankets, stuffed toys, pillows, duvets, bumper pads or bibs in the crib around your baby.
Do not leave a baby sleeping in its car seat or stroller or bouncer. You should move him to a firm sleep surface onto his back as soon as possible.
Only use a ‘firm sleep surface’ such as a crib, a bassinet, or an approved travel crib or play yard. The (CPSC) Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends: a tight-fitting, firm mattress and a fitted sheet designed for that specific product.
The AAP recommends sharing a room with your baby for the first six months but not your bed. This is because room-sharing has been found to decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. It is a safer option to bed sharing and it is more convenient to be close to your baby at night for feeding and diaper changing. That does not mean that you cannot bring your baby into your bed with you and your partner to soothe, to play, to snuggle, to change a diaper and to feed.
Do not leave your baby sleeping unattended on a sofa or an armchair as this is highly dangerous.
If you’re concerned about your baby getting cold at night you can use an approved sleep sack.
Swaddle or Not?
It is okay to swaddle your baby but be sure that your baby remains on its back. The swaddle should not be too tight or too loose. Here is a video “How to Swaddle“. When your infant is able to roll over or is attempting to roll over it is advisable to cease swaddling.
Pacifiers help to reduce the risk of SIDS, even if the pacifier falls out after baby is sleeping. If you are breastfeeding, ask your GP or lactation consultant about when to introduce a pacifier. You should not force a pacifier on your baby if she rejects it repeatedly.
The two tops things any pregnant mom can do to prevent SIDS is to avoid (1) smoking, avoid being around a smoker when pregnant, and (2) to avoid alcohol and illegal drugs.
Prevention: After Birth
Breastfeed your baby if possible. The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the only source of nutrition for your baby for up to 6 months. If you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue breastfeeding for at least 12 months, or even longer if you and your baby are comfortable with that.
Regularly attend ‘well’ visits with your GP.
Ensure that your baby gets tummy time at least once a day to prevent ‘flat head syndrome’. Tummy time should always be attended by an adult. You should not leave your baby alone on its tummy even for a short period of time. Here’s a guide to “Tummy Time“.
Be wary of any product that claims to ‘prevent SIDS’
There simply isn’t enough research to back up claims made by manufacturers of apparel, or tech gadgets and monitors and bedding and bed share pods to satisfy the AAP and the FDA. That might change over time so stay informed and when in doubt always ask a medical professional such as your MD.
Disclaimer: This post is not a substitute for a professional medical opinion or assessment. This post is not meant as a diagnosis. You must always follow the latest guidelines as set out by the APP. If you have any questions ask your MD.