Bringing home a new baby is a big adjustment and can feel overwhelming for parents, particularly when it comes to safety.
While certain statistics can be alarming — there are approximately 3,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths yearly in the U.S., according to the most recent government statistics — parents can take comfort in knowing that following safe sleep practices can go a long way towards prevention, say experts.
The three commonly reported types of such infant deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and deaths from unknown causes.
October is SIDS Awareness Month and the perfect time to understand the differences between SIDS and suffocation — and, more importantly, to learn best safe sleep practices.
While not every infant death is preventable, there are ways to lower risks, especially when it comes to suffocation while sleeping.
• Always place babies on their backs for sleep, for both naps and night sleeping. A baby’s gag reflex and anatomy will help prevent choking, as opposed to those babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
• Babies should always sleep on firm surfaces, such as a mattress in a properly approved crib or bassinet, covered by a fitted sheet, not a blanket. This lowers risk of suffocation and SIDS.
• Keep pillows and other soft objects out of your baby’s sleep area. Pillows, loose bedding and stuffed toys can raise suffocation risks.
• Don’t sleep with your baby in the same bed. A baby can sleep in your room, but not in an adult bed or on a chair or couch. Sharing a bed can risk strangulation, suffocation or wedging your baby between objects. Sharing a room (not a bed) may decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, according to the CDC.
• Never allow smoking near your baby, as this is a major SIDS risk factor.
The right sleep products are an essential part of keeping your baby safe. Many experts espouse the importance of choosing a firm, breathable crib mattress.
Most conventional, waterproof mattresses are covered with impermeable skins that prevent air circulation and increase suffocation risk, whereas a breathable alternative allows a baby to breathe safely even if he or she rolls over during sleep. For example, the revolutionary design of the fully breathable Newton Crib Mattress allows a baby to breathe right through it. An independent, blind, scientific study demonstrated that a baby gets 97 percent more air while breathing through a Newton mattress than on a traditional crib mattress. More information is available at newtonbaby.com.
“As a pediatrician and mom, knowing that my baby was safely sleeping on a breathable mattress gave me full peace of mind and brought all of us better sleep,” says Dr. Deena Blanchard, a New York-based pediatrician and mother.
While you can’t protect your baby from everything, it’s important to lower the risks that you can, and creating a safe sleeping environment is a great start.