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Kim Kardashian recently shared a photo of her and Kanye West’s sleeping baby boy, Psalm. Their fans probably saw a beautiful newborn snuggled in his crib.
But to our infant sleep experts, it was the latest high-profile photo of unsafe sleep practices. Blankets and bedding (like the ones in the photo) pose a suffocation risk in cribs, which should be completely empty except for a mattress and tight fitted sheet.
“Unsafe sleep is the most common preventable cause of infant death in the United States,” says Margie Boyer, RNC, MS, C-EFM, CNS, nurse manager for patient safety in the care of women and children at AdventHealth Tampa. “It’s important for families and people who influence others, like movie stars and athletes, to help spread the word about safe sleep.”
Last year, Boyer helped AdventHealth Tampa become one of only five hospitals in the country to join a national partnership to promote safe sleep among infants. Led by the National Institute for Children's Health Quality, the effort is recruiting experts like Boyer to both train nurses around the country and ensure that safe sleep practices are shown in the media.
“We want to ensure that by 2020, any picture in the media shows an example of safe sleep,” Boyer says.
Their expertise is also helping mothers and children closer to home.
June Vinyard, BSN, RN, a nurse manager at AdventHealth Tampa who educates mothers about childbirth and breastfeeding, talks with new moms about safe sleep. To ensure exhausted parents remember the essentials, our team provides a laminated card and a questionnaire reinforcing the information.
Their goal is that parents and other caregivers will be able to describe safe sleep practices at least 90 percent of the time.
As part of the nationwide partnership, Vinyard and Boyer recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to help train staff from 15 other hospitals on safe sleep practices. The message to the public is that safe sleep isn’t complicated.
Parents can take three simple steps to reduce their child’s chances of experiencing sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
The ABCs of Safe Infant Sleep
The likelihood that an infant will die unexpectedly has declined sharply since 1990. This is thanks in large part to discoveries about the safest way for infants to sleep.
A simple way to summarize these findings is to follow the ABCs of safe sleep. Infants should sleep:
- Alone: Infants can sleep in the same room as their parents, but they should not share a bed.
- On Their Back: Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants sleep on their backs. Some supervised tummy time is good, but your baby should sleep on their back every time.
- In Their Crib: Babies should sleep in a crib with only a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet. That means no bedding, bumpers, toys or pillows.
It might seem unrelated to safe sleep, but the nationwide campaign is also encouraging mothers to breastfeed. Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of SIDS.
For more detailed guidelines on safe infant sleep, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 fact sheet.
Even if it’s not complicated, safe sleep isn’t always the easiest choice. Here are some common challenges and how to overcome them.
The Challenges to Safe Sleep
Not knowing about safe sleep isn’t the only barrier. Here are a few that we’ve heard:
‘How we used to do it:’ Vinyard says new parents often get a lot of infant care advice from family members about what they did, even if it was decades ago. She gives out brochures that are aimed at educating grandparents. New parents should feel comfortable making their own child-rearing choices.
‘Is my baby cold?:’ If you’re worried that your baby is cold or uncomfortable, we encourage a sleep sack or swaddle. We’ll provide a free swaddle for parents to take home.
‘Does my crib need bumpers?:’ The short answer is no. Even though some retailers sell beautiful cribs with ornamental bumpers, they’re no longer needed. They were once used to prevent infants from getting their heads trapped between a crib’s bars, but newer regulations have made bumpers unnecessary.
Still, the greatest challenge is hardwiring safe sleep practices into the minds of parents and their families. Earlier this month, Boyer shared the results of AdventHealth Tampa’s participation in the national safe sleep effort. She gave a presentation at the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.
Partnering With Parents for a Healthy Start
We believe feeling whole extends far beyond our hospitals. Parents depend on us to give them the information and coaching to help their babies get the healthiest start they can.
Safe sleep is just one of the ways the Women’s Health Pavilion at AdventHealth Tampa prepares Mom and Dad for the joys and challenges of parenthood.