Sunday, January 15, 2012

Safe Sleep

I want to start with a discussion about sleep. Sleep is so important to all of us as most parents of newborns realize very quickly. Each person has a unique rhythm regarding sleep and this is true for newborns. Some sleep a lot, others not so much. Some sleep through the night after 2 or 3 weeks, others wake up at night until they are 3 years old. Most infants will sleep through the hustle and bustle of the house and this is good.

Today we will stay focused on SAFE SLEEP. If you were born in the 1980’s, your mother was told to put you on your tummy to sleep so that if you spit up in your sleep, you would not swallow it.  However, in the early 1990’s, research showed that there was a significant decrease in the number of cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in societies where babies were placed on their backs to sleep. SIDS is a term for the sudden death of an infant under the age of 1, usually during sleep, often with no discernable cause. In 1994, the National Institute of Health in the United States, Along with the American Academy of Pediatrics began its “Back to Sleep” campaign, which included educating families on safe sleep practices and doing research into the further causes of SIDS.  Current statistics indicate that there has been a 50% decrease in the number of SIDS incidents since the program began. Sleeping on the back is one factor, but it appears to be a significant one, in SIDS prevention.

The recommended SAFE SLEEP environment for an infant is to sleep in a safe crib, on a firm tight fitting mattress, covered with a cotton tight fitting sheet. No stuffed animals of dangling toys or blind cords should be in the bed area. The baby should be dressed in a warm pajama or sleeper and should not need blankets or pillows or head positioners in the bed. Newborns often prefer to sleep Swaddled tightly in a blanket, which is ok as long as the baby is young enough that it cannot wiggle out of the blanket. It is also recommended that the environment not be too warm, therefore blankets are not needed during sleep.  

This brings me to the issue of CO-SLEEPING, or having baby sleep in the same bed with the parentsand or older siblings. This is an issue with two sides. Some families feel that sleeping in the same bed offers a strong connection to the baby. For me, personally, it was NOT an option. As I said first, Sleep is so important to everyone and I was not able to sleep well with a tiny baby in the same bed. I slept with one eye open, so to speak, to be sure the baby was ok. A better option for me was to have the baby bassinet next to the bed, which was close to me but not in the bed.  One time when Co-Sleeping should never occur (no matter what your personal belief is) is when any adult in the bed is in an altered state after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, including any medicine which suggest that you avoid driving. One sleeps more heavily in this condition and can roll onto an infant ant smother him/her without realizing it. It has happened. Over half of infant suffication deaths are due to co-sleeping. It is a risk you do not have to take.

A safe sleeping environment is easy to provide and has so many benefits that it is well worth the effort.
For more information, check the National Health Institute's back to sleep campaign

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