October is SIDS Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to review safe sleep practice for babies. Babies need to sleep safely and develop a healthy bond with their mothers. These two essential newborn needs must occur in the first months of an infant’s life, but they do not occur simultaneously.

How can a loving parent provide the safest possible sleep environment for that beautiful little infant? The most important advice has been repeated since 1992: Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep. This has cut the number of infant deaths from sudden infant death syndrome in half.

Unfortunately, 50 percent of babies still are dying. A close look at the deaths has revealed that many of these babies who died were sleeping in unsafe places. We don’t know all of the answers to the question of why these babies die. But we do know the chance of death would have been reduced if those babies were placed to sleep in the way recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

After extensive research, the AAP recommends an infant be placed to sleep on his or her back alone in a safety approved crib. This crib should have a tight fitting mattress with a fitted crib sheet and there must never be loose blankets, pillows, bumper pads or toys in the crib with the baby. The crib should be in the parents’ bedroom close to the parents’ bed. This allows the parent to reach over to soothe the baby during the night and easily place the baby back in his own crib after feeding.

In the first months of a child’s life it is crucially important that a baby and his or her mother form a firm bond. Some proponents of co-sleeping justify the risks with the argument that being in close proximity allows for bonding. Bonding and attachment are vital, but the most significant bonds are formed while the baby is awake and interacting with the mother or father. It is this action and response – give and take – that ensures a baby’s security and self-esteem. Furthermore, quality sleep is an essential component of healthy parenting and infant growth and development. It is questionable whether or not both mother and baby are receiving periods of deep sleep with active REM while sleeping in the same bed.

Adult beds are not appropriate for infants. Heavy quilts or comforters and pillows can cover or smother a baby. Soft bedding also may surround the infant and reduce the flow of oxygen while trapping carbon dioxide so the baby re-breaths air and thereby stresses their system. Also, a parent who is too tired or even unaware that the baby is in the bed may put an arm over the infant or somehow roll onto the baby.

Babies have slept with their parents for ages. Most babies do not die. But the chance of a tragedy is increased by this practice. Historically, in many parts of the world where babies slept with their mother, adult beds were mats, not with soft bedding. Our affluence has increased our comfort and the bed is luxuriously filled for our sleeping comfort. If we would be willing to remove all the blankets and pillows, we could reduce risks.

Many people are advised to take their baby to bed for a variety of reasons. Usually this is recommended by someone who thinks, “I did it and my child was fine.” The probability is that your baby will be fine, too, because the number of babies who die compared to the number of babies that are born is small. But the risk has to be considered. Never sleep with a baby.

Never sleep with an infant in a chair, recliner, couch or waterbed. The baby may fall between the body and the back of the couch or between cushions or in a crevice at the side and suffocate.

Not everyone always does what they know is best for their baby. Sometimes it is just easier to bring the baby to bed with you. But the fact is ­– having a baby is not easy. As a parent, you have a responsibility to care for your child in spite of the fact that a lot is demanded of you as a parent.The safest place for a baby to sleep is on the back, alone in a safety-approved crib near your bed.

— Dora Gorski, Infant Death Center and Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin in Wausau


Safe sleep for babies — 7 Comments

  1. What do you say to someone who has a lost a child to SIDS and what kind of resources are available? Thank you, Melissa Rivera

  2. Melissa, there is nothing that you or I can say that will fix the pain of the grief or return that family’s life to normal. You or I can only hope to be of some help to them on their journey through this grief.

    I can’t give you any magic words. Each parent and each child and each grandparent and each child care provider is different. But I will urge you to try to say that you really care. Parents need to know that even though that little baby was only with them for a short while they were important not only to those parents but to everyone whose lives were touched by him or her. So calling the family and letting them know you are thinking of them and the baby. Let them know that the baby was remembered. Use the baby’s name in your conversation. Most important give those parents opportunities to talk about their pain as well as the joys the baby brought into their lives and your life.

    On the website http://www.idcw.org is a copy of recommendation that parents created of dos and don’ts. This is worthy of your consideration. In my experience, parents do not like to hear you say that you understand. Because they know that there is no way anyone else really can understand all the pain of their grief. Perhaps if you have also had a child die you come close but each person’s journey is different and needs to be respected. The second big mistake is to in anyway suggest that things will be fixed if they have another baby. Again each child is different and this baby who died can not be replaced, he or she is very special. Sometimes having another child will renew their faith in life and give them a new dream and hope. But another birth will also bring great fear. Because now they know that a baby can die.

    One of many expressions of grief is anger. This comes out in many ways, at the doctor, God, SIDS, the coroner, and no matter how well meaning you are sometimes it is directed at you. Apologize and try again. Just don’t leave the family isolated. Many times it is better to just call and say hello, I was thinking about you, and just listen. Grieving folks need people to listen. Listening is so much more important than talking.

    I hope this answers your question. If not please feel free to contact me.

    –Dora Gorski

  3. It certainly is positive to check out bloggers going over child care and baby topics a lot more often as of late. Thanks for the blog post, I saw this on google.

  4. Great post as usual, thanks for writing all this helpful content on a regular basis.

  5. Thanks so much for this information. I am thinking of having a baby with my wife and I really appreciate what you’re sharing.

  6. Safe sleep practice for babies is important since most parents are both working, so they are totally tired when got home and sometimes they tend to forget their responsibilities especially on evening.