FACT: There are about 3,500 deaths reported each year from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or SUID (sudden unexplained infant death) each year.* Of these tragic deaths, over 30% happen due to accidental suffocation or unsafe sleep practices. But there is some good news, accidents can be prevented.
I remember distinctly on the day we were discharged from the hospital with Jack. A nurse breezed in and out within about 2 minutes, I know she talked about formula and sleep in that time but truthfully I have no idea what was said. I remember sitting in the back seat of our tiny car, c-section scar aching, sitting beside our tiny boy and thinking "I have NO CLUE WHAT I'M DOING".
In the early days, we definitely DID NOT practice safe sleep. We would wrap my pregnancy pillow around our back to support Jack while we slept on our couch, we would pull him into our bed to get whatever sleep we could, we would drive around to get him to sleep in his carseat and them. We were some of the lucky ones because our boy is still here with us now, but there are so many who don't have that same story.
So let's break it down a bit with the ABCs of safe sleep:
Baby should sleep Alone. When infants sleep in the same bed as their parent, sibling, or another caregiver, this is called bed-sharing. Bed-sharing is dangerous for babies. Sleeping in the same bed as a baby increases the likelihood of suffocation and other sleep-related deaths. Bed-sharing can happen to anyone. You do not have to be under the influence of medication, drugs, or alcohol to roll on top of your baby. However, using drugs or consuming alcohol can increase the chances of death. Additionally, an adult bed is not an appropriate sleep environment for babies, even without another person in it. Even if you feel that you will hear or sense any distress in your baby, remember that exhaustion acts as an impairment. If you are exhausted you may not notice your baby has entered a dangerous situation until its too late.
The "B" in our safe sleep ABCs stands for Back. Your baby should always be placed on their back for sleep.
This video illustrates the "rebreathing theory". The theory is that the expired breath, when too close to baby's sleep space can lead to carbon dioxide being rebreathed back into baby's lungs instead of oxygen. This can lead to suffocation and death.
Many parents and grandparents express concern that their baby will choke when sleeping on his or her back, this is simply not true. Babies have a reflex to keep their airway clear and avoid choking. They automatically cough up or swallow any fluid or spit up. Evidence has shown that babies are more likely to choke or aspirate when sleeping on their stomach.
When baby is placed on their back, the esophagus (food pipe) is below the trachea (windpipe). Should a baby spit up while in the back position, any remaining content in their mouth will go back down the esophagus due to gravity. On the other hand, when on their tummy, baby can possibly aspirate or breath that spit up into their lungs. There is no increased risk of vomiting while baby is sleeping on their back.
So when can baby sleep on their tummy? Short answer, when they can roll themselves into that position. There are important things to remember though, always place baby on their back and allow them to get to a comfortable position on their own and be sure that their sleep space is free of blankets, pillows, toys and any other extras.
The final piece of our safe sleep puzzle is their sleep surface, which brings us to our "C", Crib.
A crib must meet rigorous safety standards to be available on the market. This crib is equipped with a firm, flat surface that is safe for baby and is outfitted with only a tight fitted sheet. This sleep surface matters, soft bedding and mattresses increase baby's risk of death FIVE times. Avoid memory foam for a crib mattress as the firmness is not sufficient for a safe sleep space.
You have probably noticed that your baby’s sleep surface, whether it’s a full-size crib mattress or a pad for a portable crib, is firm and may not seem comfortable to most adults. But this is the way it is meant to be! The mattress or the pad for the portable crib should be covered by only a fitted sheet. There should be no other padding added to the mattress in an attempt to make it more “comfortable”. Doing so can be very dangerous for your baby.
Why are soft surfaces so dangerous? Well, because if an infant lays on soft bedding or soft surfaces (such as an adult bed or couch) that surface may indent or conform to the shape of the baby’s head and increase the likelihood that the infant will breathe in his/her own exhaled breath (carbon dioxide). These surfaces also increase the risk of suffocation if the baby would become face down in the mattress, couch, or another soft surface.