Of all the topics I routinely discuss with parents, sleep has to rank right at the top of the list. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, given that a good night’s sleep (or the lack thereof) can have a significant effect on just about everything else we do. When it comes to children’s overall health and well-being, it’s hard to sleep through all of the studies that reinforce that teenagers need more sleep (9 hours a night as compared to 8 for adults) in order to perform well at school, and that plenty of nighttime sleep (on the order of at least 10 hours a night) appears to be as important for keeping obesity at bay in young children as diet and exercise.
What I want to discuss today, however, isn’t just children’s need for an adequate amount of sleep, but the importance of safe sleep. While there are certainly aspects of safe sleep that apply to older children (bunk beds spring to mind), safe sleep has held a particularly prominent place in the national parenting consciousness every since the 1990s when the identified link between belly sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) led the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend back sleeping in 1992. This was followed in 1995 with the official launch of the Back To Sleep Campaign.
While over a decade of subsequent parent education efforts have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of back-sleeping babies (from 25% in 1992 to 85% in 2008), recent years have brought no additional increase in back sleeping. In fact, we may have started to backslide when it comes to insuring babies’ safety while sleeping. In the course of little over a single devastating month back in Feb/March of 2008, six babies died in Douglas County alone – all classified as SIDS attributed to bed sharing and suffocation.
While any increase in infant deaths is concerning, to say the least, the good news is that we know a great deal about what we need to do to keep babies safe while sleeping and reduce their risk of SIDS. The much larger task at hand is simply to make sure that all new and expectant parents and infant caregivers know the most effective ways to create safe sleep environments for babies.
This is the challenge being addressed in a new National Safe Sleep Education Campaign by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Keeping Babies Safe. Their latest recommendations for providing a safe sleep for all babies include:
- Place infants to sleep on their backs
- Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress
- Never use extra padding, blankets or pillows under baby
- Remove pillows or thick comforters
- Do not use positioning devices – they are not necessary and can be deadly
- Regularly check cribs for loose, missing or broken parts or slats
- Do not try to fix a broken crib
- Place cribs or playpens away from windows and window covering cords to avoid fall and strangulation hazards
- Place baby monitor cords away from cribs or playpens to avoid strangulation
These life-saving safe sleep tips can also be found in the campaign’s newly released 7 minute video, narrated by renowned journalist Joan Lunden and available for viewing or download on the AAP’s HealthyChildren.org and on the Keeping Babies Safe website. Additional information about safe sleep can also be found on in the newly revised 2nd Edition of my book, Heading Home With Your Newborn (AAP, Sept 2010), and on the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services Website.
Originally posted on Omaha World Herald’s Live Well Nebraska