The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reminding parents to follow recommended safe sleep practices for infants, particularly during the colder winter months that present different challenges for keeping babies warm and free from danger.
“Infant mortality is a serious public health concern, and we live in a state where far too many children don’t live to celebrate their first birthdays,” said Ruth Ann Shepherd, M.D., director of the Division of Maternal and Child Health for DPH. “In fact, Kentucky’s infant mortality rate remains higher than the national average. This is due in part to sleep-related accidents that could be prevented with safety practices.”
Shepherd said the best way to prevent sleep-related deaths is to eliminate environmental factors that put infants at risk for injury or death. Specifically, she emphasized the importance of never smoking around a baby, since secondhand smoke can contribute to sudden, unexplained infant death.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these safe sleep practices to prevent sleep-related deaths and keep infants safe and comfortable:
• Put baby to sleep alone in a crib, bassinet or play yard. The baby’s sleep area may be in the parent’s room, but not in the parent’s bed. An adult bed is never a safe place for an infant to sleep. • Consult a health care provider for guidance on when to move the baby to his or her own room. • Always place infants to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
• Keep the baby’s sleeping area, whether it is a crib, bassinet or play yard, free and clear of soft objects, such as stuffed animals, toys, loose bedding, bumper pads and pillows.
• Breast-feeding your baby reduces the risks of SIDS, but the baby should be put to sleep in their own crib after feedings, in a bed separate from the mother’s.
How to dress infants for sleep can be a great challenge as the outside temperatures drop and parents and caregivers worry about keeping infants warm enough. DPH recommends the following guidelines for winter sleep:
• Baby can be dressed in one-piece pajamas or wearable blanket. Wearable blankets can be layered over undershirts or onesie. Do not let your baby get too hot by overdressing them or wrapping them up in heavy blankets.
• If possible, keep the baby’s room at a temperature comfortable for an adult.
• If a blanket must be used to keep a baby warm for sleeping, it should cover the baby’s feet and lower body but not come higher than the baby’s chest. It should be tucked in around the mattress at the sides and bottom of the crib so that it cannot slide up to cover the baby’s face.
Sherry Rock, DPH Child Fatality Program administrator, also warned of the dangers of another household item commonly used this time of year when temperatures begin to decrease.
“Remember to keep all portable heaters away from the baby’s sleep area. The baby can overheat if too close to a heater, get burned or tangled up in the cords of small electric heaters,” said Rock. “These are just small steps for parents and caregivers, but they can make all the difference in keeping infants safe.”
There are many safety resources available to the general public, parents, families, professionals and caregivers of infants. Parents, professionals and others can visit the Safe to Sleep public education campaign website at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/Pages/default.aspx for resources and more information.