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Make sure your baby sleeps soundly – and safely

By Dr. Rianna Evans, CHKD Hospitalist

There are few things more satisfying to new parents than the sight of a sleeping baby. The average newborn sleeps much of the day and night, waking only for feedings every few hours. And while some parents may consider a sleeping baby a safe baby, they need to recognize that sleeping in the wrong position, with the wrong bedding, or in the wrong place can risk their lives.

Children who sleep on their tummies, are encased in blankets, or share a bed with their parents are at a greater risk of suffocation. In fact, according to a recent study by the Hampton Roads Child Fatality Review Team, 25 children died last year due to unsafe sleep environments. To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or suffocation, remember these important safe sleep practices:

Put your baby on her back to sleep. This is the single most important thing parents and caregivers can do every time they put their baby to bed – even if it is for a short nap. SIDS rates have dropped dramatically since the early 1990s, when experts began to teach parents to put babies to sleep on their backs. Parents should make sure that everyone who cares for their baby understands this rule, too, including grandparents and babysitters.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) no longer recognizes side sleeping as a reasonable alternative to back sleeping. Studies have found that the side sleep position increases the chance of the infant rolling onto her stomach. Infant positioners marketed to keep babies in the side position are not a safe way to keep your infant from rolling and should not be used.

Parents should also make sure that their baby gets plenty of tummy time during waking hours, because it helps to build the baby’s neck, back and arm strength.

Avoid soft bedding. Soft bedding and fluffy blankets can also pose a risk of suffocation. Make sure that your baby sleeps on a firm crib mattress with a tightly fitted sheet. Do not let babies sleep on sofas, beanbag chairs or waterbeds. Do not use fluffy blankets, comforters or bumper pads, and do not place soft toys or pillows in the crib. Blanket-type sleep clothing (“sleep sacks”) or footie pajamas made of non-flammable blanket material are enough to keep a baby warm.

Lead a healthy lifestyle. Do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke around your baby. Make sure your baby gets all the recommended check-ups and immunizations.

Don’t sleep in the same bed with your baby. Babies can roll into spaces between the wall and the bed or other small crevices where they can suffocate. There are many supporters of co-sleeping on the Internet, but every year police respond to devastating cases where a baby is unintentionally killed by the blankets or a parent while bed-sharing.

As natural as co-sleeping may seem, the dangers are undeniable. Because of this significant risk, the AAP recommends room-sharing instead of bed-sharing with your infant. To have your baby close to you when you sleep, place a bassinet or crib in your room as a safer alternative.

For more information on creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby, visit www.healthychildren.org.

About Tidewater Parent Staff

One of our staff who provides news and information for families in Hampton Roads.

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