Our babies are twice as likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than babies in other communities. While many factors, including access to newborn education, adequate newborn furniture and bedding, and other socio-economic concerns, could be the blame, it is clear we must take affirmative steps to address this issue.
On October 24, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated sleep recommendations for a safe infant sleep environment. Here is what you need to know:
1. Put your baby on his/her back to sleep.
To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed in a supine position (on the back) for every sleep by every caregiver until the child reaches 1 year of age. If you’re like me, I’m sure you have a Grandma or Auntie who will readily tell you that you slept on your back in 19-whatever and you turned out perfectly fine. The thing is, now that we know better, we need to do better.
2. Use a firm sleep surface, and keep soft objects and loose bedding away from the infant’s sleep area.
According to the AAP, infants should be placed on a firm sleep surface (e.g., mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects. In addition, the crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard should conform to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Also, make sure that the product has not been recalled. If cost is an issue, many local organizations provide low-cost or free cribs or play yards for families with financial constraints. One organization, Cribs for Kids, has partners all over the United States. Just pop in your zip code!
As mentioned, when dressing your crib, stick to a fitted sheet. Soft objects such as pillows and pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads and loose bedding, such as blankets and nonfitted sheets, can obstruct an infant’s nose and mouth. Believe it or not, swaddling does not reduce the risk of SIDS. There is a high risk of death if a swaddled infant is placed in or rolls to the prone (tummy down) position. According to the AAP, “infant sleep clothing, such as wearable blankets, [are] preferable to blankets and other coverings to keep the infant warm while reducing the chance of head covering or entrapment that could result from blanket use.”
3. Avoid overheating.
The AAP provides, “infants should be dressed appropriately for the environment, with no greater than 1 layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in that environment.” Signs of overheating include sweating or the infant’s chest feeling hot to touch.
4. Share a room, but not a bed.
The AAP recommends that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the first year of life. The AAP stated, “there is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.” The safest place for an infant to sleep is on a separate sleep surface designed for infants close to the parents’ bed. With my boys, I was a big fan of the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. They have a mini version if you are tight on space. I found this sleeper particularly useful while nursing and recovering from my c-sections.
5. Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
The AAP notes that studies have reported a protective effect of pacifiers on the incidence of SIDS. The protective effect of the pacifier is observed even if the pacifier falls out of the infant’s mouth. Go figure!
6. Give your baby supervised, awake tummy time.
According to the AAP, “supervised, awake tummy time is recommended to facilitate development and to minimize development of positional plagiocephaly” (that flat spot on your baby’s head). You can find really cute tummy time mats/toys on Amazon and at Toys R Us that make tummy time far less burdensome on your tiny humans.
7. Breastfeeding is recommended to reduce SIDS.
According to the AAP, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. The AAP recommends moms breastfeed exclusively or feed with expressed milk for at least 6 months.
8. Avoid smoke exposure, alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth.
There is an increased risk of SIDS with prenatal and postnatal exposure to smoking, alcohol or illicit drug use.
9. Get regular prenatal care.
There is a lower risk of SIDS for infants whose mothers obtain regular prenatal care.
About The Author
Faye McCray is an attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For Harriet, Madame Noire, Black Girl Nerds, Black and Married with Kids, and other popular publications. Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon. Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.