Safe sleep for babies is as easy as ABC

Staff Writer
Every infant deserves to have a first birthday, so Ohio doctors and health care providers are asking parents, grandparents and caregivers to remember the ABCs of safe sleep: Alone, on their Back, in a safety-approved Crib.
“Infant mortality is a problem everywhere, and definitely in the state of Ohio,” said Dr. Michael Gittelman, a physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a board member with the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ohio has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation, according to the Ohio Department of Health, with a rate of 7.6 deaths per 1,000 births. Those statistics ranked Ohio 47th out of 50 states in both 2010 and 2012.
The health department also reported that sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of death for infants ages 1 month to 1 year. Those include sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation in sleep environments and deaths of undetermined causes.
As part of the agency’s efforts to reduce infant mortality, the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recently launched a new safe sleep campaign to help reduce the number of Ohio babies who die in unsafe sleep environments.
The new campaign updates the 1994 Back to Sleep campaign that was created with a goal of educating parents, caregivers, and health care providers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, said Gittelman.
People realized that safe sleep for infants was a problem, he said, adding that “They noticed most SIDS cases occurred because of sleep.”
After reviewing the findings, it was found that many of the infants who died were sleeping on their belly, not their back.
“That’s when they came up with the Back to Sleep campaign,” Gittelman said.
The campaign reduced the number of infant deaths by 50 percent. But that still left infants at risk, he said.
The new campaign was developed following input received from 12 focus groups with Ohio parents around the state. The recommendations are for the infant to sleep alone on their back in their own crib with no blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or bumper pads.
“When you think about it, if they don’t have head control and there’s something covering their head, there’s nothing they can do about it,” Gittelman said.
The campaign offers several tips for those who care for infants:
• The safest place for a baby to sleep is in the room where you sleep, but not in your bed.
• Place the crib or bassinet near your bed to make it easier to breastfeed and bond with baby. But always place the baby back to sleep in his or her own bed when you’re done feeding.
• Use a firm sleep surface such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
• Do not use pillows, blankets or crib bumpers anywhere in your baby’s sleep area. Instead of a blanket, swaddle the infant in a thin blanket if under six months, or use a sleep sack.
• Keep soft objects, toys and loose bedding out of a baby’s sleep area.
• Make sure nothing covers the baby’s head.
• Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night.
• Never place a baby to sleep on adult beds, chairs, sofas, waterbeds, pillows, cushions or soft surfaces, with you or by themselves.
• Don’t let the baby get too hot. If you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash or rapid breathing, the baby is likely overdressed. Set the room temperature in a range that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
• Consider using a pacifier at nap time and bed time. The pacifier should not have cords or clips that might be a strangulation risk.
• Place the crib in an area that is always smoke free.
• Follow health care provider guidance on your baby’s vaccines and regular health checkups.
• Give baby plenty of tummy time when he or she is awake and when someone is watching. This helps the baby’s head, neck and shoulder muscles get stronger and helps to prevent flat spots on the head.
Gittelman said the academy is now working with partners like the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association to educate parents and caregivers.
Change takes time, he acknowledged.
“Injuries are the number one cause of death in infants. We’re getting ahead with some problems like immunizations and child passenger safety seats,” Gittelman said. “Now we just have to work on this.”
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