Safe Sweet Dreaming: Keeping newborns safe while they sleep

. December 29, 2016.
Dr. Aroub Al-Ayoubi (L)  and Dr. R.W. Mills, M.D. (R) offer advice to help newborns sleep safely.
Dr. Aroub Al-Ayoubi (L) and Dr. R.W. Mills, M.D. (R) offer advice to help newborns sleep safely.

As a pregnant woman, it’s hard to miss the new safe sleep recommendations for infants; signs are plastered in OB offices, Labor and Delivery wings, and pediatric centers. Hospitals require new moms to watch a video on safe sleeping practices before they head home. Following the ABCs— Alone, on Back, in a Crib—drastically reduces the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and SUID (sudden unexpected infant death). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends babies sleep in the same room (but not the same bed) as parents for at least the first six months, and optimally, for the first year of life. But while most new parents are aware of these guidelines, not all parents follow them.

Why some parents fail to follow
safe sleep guidelines

Dr. R.W. Mills, M.D. with PediatriCare Associates, explains that sometimes “parents may get lulled into a false sense of security” because “SUIDs are relatively rare, and, therefore, they may feel it is unlikely to happen to them.” Advice from other parents and relatives also plays a role in not heeding the AAP sleep guidelines. “Relatives, including grandparents, are highly valued for their opinions–as they should be–but these individuals may not be familiar with the more recent recommendations and therefore may make well intended, but contrary, recommendations,” said Dr. Mills.

“Some cultural differences, poor education, and misleading, unreliable internet sources may also prevent parents from placing babies “alone, on their back, in a safe empty crib,” said Dr. Aroub Al-Ayoubi M.D. with Franklin Park Pediatrics.

Perhaps the largest reason parents veer from the guidelines is lack of sleep. When parents are sleep-deprived, sometimes even the best of intentions are abandoned in the wee hours of the morning.

“Parents are exhausted and adopt a ‘whatever is necessary’ approach to get their babies to sleep in the middle of the night,” said Dr. Mills. “This is particularly true with the second or third awakening. Recent infant sleep observational studies have confirmed that parents are much more likely to place their babies prone (on their stomachs) in the middle of the night than with the initial placement position.”

More tips for safe sleep environments

Dr. Mills cites numerous additional co-recommendations that further reduce the risk of SUID. These include placing the baby on a firm sleeping surface, breastfeeding, sleeping in the same room as the baby (but NOT sharing a bed, which actually increases the risk of SUID), using a pacifier, keeping the baby current on all immunizations, and avoiding cigarette smoke exposure and parental alcohol or illicit drug use.

“Parents also should not take their babies to a couch or armchair to feed them in the middle of the night as they are more likely to fall asleep and drop their babies or suffocate them,” Dr. Mills explained. Instead, Dr. Mills said to feed your baby in bed and after feeding, return to his or her crib..

“Another recommendation is to avoid allowing the baby to overheat; a good general rule is to apply no more than one thin layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same setting. Also no bumper pads, blankets, stuffed animals or loveys should be in the crib, as these can pose suffocation risks. Officially the AAP recommends avoiding all of these until at least one year of age.”

Hopefully by following these guidelines it’ll be safe sweet dreaming for your little one…and you can get a good night’s sleep!