ABC's of Safe Sleep
Parents are often flooded with advice on how to care for their new baby. Much of that advice is on how to get them to sleep. More importantly, though, than learning the best routine, the proper swaddle technique or the right sleep training method is learning how to put your baby to sleep safely.
Sadly, sleep-related deaths claim about 3,500 infants each year in the U.S. In Greenville County alone, the coroner's office reported two infant deaths related to unsafe sleep per month.
It's important that parents and caregivers alike know how to prevent this type of tragedy. The first thing any parent or caregiver should learn is the ABCs of safe sleep. Here's how it breaks down.
A. Infants should sleep alone
It's OK for an infant to sleep close to an adult bed, but not in it. There is evidence that sleeping in an adult's room — but on a separate surface — decreases the risk of sleep-related deaths by as much as 50 percent. A crib or bassinet right beside your bed can make it easy to reach a baby. This is safer than risking falling asleep with a baby in bed with you.
Sleeping alone also means removing toys, soft objects, blankets and pillows from a baby's sleep area. These items are choking and suffocation hazards. We're a really cozy society, with fluffy comforters, and couches with a lot of cushion. But those are not safe places for a baby to sleep.
B. Infants should sleep on their backs
You may have heard the old advice to place babies to sleep on their stomachs. The idea was that if a baby were choking or throwing up, there would be less chance of suffocation. But that's not true.
Studies show no increase in the number of deaths from choking among babies who sleep on their backs. Babies use their automatic reflexes (such coughing or swallowing) to keep their airways clear.
Placing babies on their backs to sleep is one of the most important ways to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. You should follow this rule throughout the first year of life.
C. Place an infant to sleep in a safety-approved crib
A crib or bassinet is safer than having a baby sleep next to you in your bed. But what's just as important is making sure the crib or bassinet is safety approved. Here are some safety tips to remember.
•Do not use cribs more than 10 years old. Older cribs may not meet current safety standards.
•Do not use cribs that are broken or modified, or that have gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress.
•Make sure the sleep surface, such as a mattress, of the crib or bassinet is firm.
It's also important to know the hazard of cords. Do not place a crib or bassinet near a window with blind, curtain cords or baby monitor cords, as babies can strangle on cords.
Babies are at risk of sleep-related deaths until they are a year old, and most deaths occur when babies are between 1 month and 4 months of age.
The ABCs of safe sleep are proven to decrease the risk of unsafe sleep deaths. Again, this advice is important to both parents and caregivers. Let's spread the word.