Protecting Your Baby During Sleep
October 23rd, 2013
by Laura L. Reno
Director, Marketing & Communications
Program Director – Family Support
Did you know that as a new parent one of the most important decisions you will make is where you place your baby to sleep? It’s an important decision I know each and every one of you take very seriously.
Unfortunately, we are challenged by the fact that every year more than 4,500 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly. The majority of these deaths are the result of unsafe sleep practices (tummy sleeping, cluttered cribs and bed sharing).
These deaths are preventable. We need your help to ensure that every parent and caregiver understands the importance of safe sleep in preventing infant deaths. In partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Institutes of Health, we at First Candle are committed to ensuring that every baby is provided the best possible chance to reach not only a first birthday, but many happy birthdays beyond.
While you may find differing opinions on this topic, years of medical research and data collection continue to prove that THE SAFEST PLACE FOR YOUR BABY TO SLEEP (for at least the first six months) IS IN YOUR ROOM, ALONGSIDE YOUR BED, IN HIS OR HER OWN SEPARATE SLEEP SPACE. Baby must be placed on his or her back and the sleep space must be free of anything soft or fluffy, including blankets, pillows, quilts, bumpers, stuffed animals or other soft items.
A baby’s risk of SIDS and sleep-related accidents increases by up to 40 times if this important recommendation is not followed. (See our Bedtime Basics for Babies.)
Research shows that babies who die of SIDS have a defect in their brainstem that makes them vulnerable to challenges in the sleep environment. The two primary challenges are re-breathing carbon dioxide (exhaled air) and overheating. Be sure that your baby has access to as much oxygen-rich air as possible by placing him or her to sleep on the back, in a crib, free from soft bedding items. Do not overheat baby with too much clothing or too high room temperature. We find that learning WHY this recommendation is so important is the key to helping parents understand the dangers of tummy sleeping, soft bedding, and bed sharing.
Here are some important things to know:
Normally, when a baby experiences one of these challenges, it triggers an alarm that is sent to the baby’s brain. The baby wakes up and cries, turns its head or does whatever is needed to get attention or correct the problem.
- In a baby with this defect, no alarm is sent. This then triggers the body to shut down and the baby quickly and quietly passes away with no warning. Even if your baby was sleeping next to you, you would not be alerted to the fact that something was wrong. Even if you were awake when it happened, there would be nothing you could do to resuscitate the baby. The baby’s body systems shut down.
At this time there is no way to identify which babies have this defect! This is why it is so important that ALL babies are cared for according to these important recommendations.
We also work to educate about bed-sharing. There is no medical research demonstrating that bed-sharing is protective against SIDS. The protective mechanisms are listed below and can be accomplished by room-sharing. Falling asleep with your baby on any surface GREATLY increases the risk of SIDS and unfortunate accidents.
First Candle counsels parents every day who thought they were bed-sharing safely and the unthinkable happened. These parents were not using drugs or alcohol, and they were not obese (these cases account for a very small number of bed-sharing deaths). They were loving, caring parents who thought they were doing what was best for their baby. What they wouldn’t give to have the chance to go back and do things differently. But when it comes to SIDS and accidents, there are no second chances. Is it worth the risk?
Advantages of room sharing:
- Makes nighttime feedings easier.
- Babies sense that mom is near, possibly keeping them from falling into a deep sleep (protective against SIDS).
- Having mom near can help babies (especially newborns) regulate their breathing.
- Allows parents to share closeness with the baby when everyone is awake, but provides protection when it’s time for everyone to get rest.
We affirm that breastfeeding is important to baby’s overall health and development, and many studies have shown that it is protective against SIDS. We work to educate parents that bed-sharing and breastfeeding are not mutually exclusive. You can successfully breastfeed your baby without sharing a bed!
If we could ensure that EVERY parent and caregiver understands and adheres to these lifesaving recommendations, we could save thousands of precious lives for generations to come.
Will you help us spread the word?