25 September 2015

Today's #Sleeptember QUESTION --- How safely are our babies sleeping?

September is not only the launch month for #Sleeptember, but it's also the month designated Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month.

According to a recent news report coming out of Michigan, 140 babies die annually in that state due to unsafe sleep, many instances of these deaths caused by completely preventable home care mistakes. Michigan is not the only state to witness a rise in sleep-related deaths for infants; the National Institutes of Health in 2014 estimated that nearly 55 percent (over half!) of all babies sleep on potentially unsafe bedding.

From an article by the NIH: "Soft objects and loose bedding — such as thick blankets, quilts, and pillows — can obstruct an infant’s airway and pose a suffocation risk... Soft bedding has also been shown to increase the risk of SIDS Infants should be placed to sleep alone, on their backs, on a firm sleep surface, such as in a mattress in a safety-approved crib covered by a fitted sheet. Soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters and loose bedding should be kept out of the baby’s sleep area."

It's hard to say whether hospitals are to blame for not educating new parents more on the safety aspects of sleep positioning and bedding, or if parents are just not taking the message seriously. Many older caregivers (grandparents and other relatives) may also not be up to speed on what constitutes safe bedding or crib positioning. But it could be as simple as all caregivers not understanding the risks of using what may seem to be harmless comfort items.

Dr. Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, senior scientist for the CDC's Division of Reproductive Health in Atlanta, suggests that "[p]arents have good intentions but may not understand that blankets, quilts and pillows increase a baby’s risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation.”

Regardless who's to blame, preventing so-called "crib death" by practicing better safety with babies while they sleep (nearly half their days at the time of birth) has never been more critical to their survival.

Learn more about the Safe to Sleep campaign and ways to prevent SIDs ("crib death") here.