Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been telling parents all babies should be placed on their backs to sleep — a move that led to a significant drop in the number of deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
It was a promising trend, but over the same time period, sleep-related deaths from suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia increased.
These statistics encouraged the AAP to expand its guidelines on safe sleep for babies in a new policy statement released in November.
“We have tried to make it easier for parents and providers to understand the recommendations by providing specific answers to common questions,” said Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP SIDS task force and lead author of the new guidelines.
One new recommendation is against the use of bumper pads in cribs. The AAP concludes there is no evidence bumper pads prevent injuries and they raise the risk of suffocation, strangulation and entrapment.
Patricia Reggio, MSN, RNC-OB and FMH Manager of Labor and Delivery agrees.
“There should be nothing in the crib but the baby. This means no bumper pads, stuffed animals, etc,” Reggio said.
Reggio also suggests parents use a swaddle sack rather than a blanket, saying “infants can get tangled in blankets and suffocate. A swaddle sack is a 1-piece sack with cloth wings attached that swaddle the infant for sleep and comfort.”
The new guidelines also add a recommendation for breastfeeding, highlighting the fact that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk for SIDS. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, FMH can help.
Keeping up with all of your baby’s immunizations reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%, according to the report. Make sure you’re up to date with this immunization schedule.
The AAP report also includes the following recommendations:
- Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
- Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
- The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed.
- Do not use wedges or positioners.
- Avoid covering your infant’s head to lower his or her risk of overheating.
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
The list of recommendations ends with a reminder that infants should have supervised, awake “tummy time” on a daily basis to promote muscle development. The AAP says tummy time should start on your baby’s first day home from the hospital. Start with two to three sessions each day for a short time (three to five minutes each), and increase the time as your baby shows he or she is enjoying it.