American Academy of Pediatrics Honors Some Traditions, Ousts Others
Every parent wants to uncover the secret to a peaceful and safely sleeping baby. Traditional advice from a grandma or aunt may provide some helpful tips, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued safe infant sleep guidelines that differ in many ways from the old days.
Dr. James Spencer, MD, a family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca, counsels parents of newborns to evaluate the risks and benefits of following the latest recommendations over older ways. “The guidelines put out by the AAP are simple and powerful means of protecting your baby from SIDS. Removing stuffed animals or putting baby on her back are easy, and the recommendations are backed by scientific research.”
Nationwide, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, kills about four babies out of every 10,000 live births, down from about 130 in 10,000 in 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, SIDS remains the third leading cause of infant mortality. “We’ve made huge strides since the AAP came out with the recommendation that babies be put to sleep on their backs, but we still have work to do to find the causes of the remaining cases (of SIDS),” said Dr. Spencer.
Here are the most recent infant sleep guidelines from the AAP*:
- Place your baby to sleep on his back for every sleep. If he rolls to his tummy, and has the ability to roll back to his tummy, there is no need to move him. If your baby falls asleep in a swing, stroller, or sling, it is best to move him to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible.
- Place your baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface, like an approved crib, bassinet, or portable crib. Cribs should not have drop side rails. Put a fitted sheet over the mattress that came with the product and do not keep soft objects or loose bedding in the crib, as they could cause suffocation or strangulation. This includes bumper pads, pillows, quilts and stuffed animals. Most experts agree that these objects are safe after the child is 12 months old.
- Place your baby to sleep in the same room where you sleep but not the same bed. You can easily watch or breastfeed your baby by having your baby nearby. Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents are at risk of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation. Parents can roll onto babies during sleep or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets.
- Breastfeed as much and for as long as you can, as studies show that breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of SIDS
- Schedule and go to all well-child visits. Recent evidence suggests that immunizations may have a protective effect against SIDS.
- Keep your baby away from smokers and places where people smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. However, until you can quit, keep your car and home smoke-free. Don’t smoke inside your home or car and don’t smoke anywhere near your baby, even if you are outside.
- Do not let your baby get too hot. Keep the room where your baby sleeps at a comfortable temperature. In general, dress your baby in no more than one extra layer than you would wear. Your baby may be too hot if she is sweating or if her chest feels hot. If you put your baby in a warm sleeper, do not use a sleeper with a hood that could cover his head or impair his breathing.
- Swaddling your baby, or wrapping her tightly in a blanket to prevent her arms and legs from moving, is no longer considered safe. Use a properly fitting pajama sleeper instead.
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. This helps to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you are breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is going well before offering a pacifier. This usually takes 3 to 4 weeks. It’s OK if your baby doesn’t want to use a pacifier. You can try offering a pacifier again, but some babies don’t like to use pacifiers. If your baby takes the pacifier and it falls out after he falls asleep, you don’t have to put it back in.
- Do not use products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Products such as wedges, positioners, special mattresses, specialized sleep surfaces, and home cardiorespiratory monitors (except in cases where babies have breathing or heart problems) have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. In addition, some infants have suffocated while using these products.
- Give your baby plenty of “tummy time” when she is awake. This will help strengthen neck muscles and avoid flat spots on the head. Always stay with your baby during tummy time and make sure she is awake.
“Books, magazines, the internet, friends, and grandparents will all offer advice on subjects like baby’s sleeping,” said Dr. Spencer. “Even though it’s hard to ignore traditional advice, if it conflicts with recent evidence-based studies, like those used by the AAP, moms and dads should choose the most up-to-date recommendations. It’s just not worth the risk.”
* Source: Safe Sleep and Your Baby: How Parents Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS and Suffocation (Copyright © 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics)