Sleeping with your baby presents dangers


Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 10:48 p.m.

Sometimes the greatest dangers for a newborn baby lurk right in the family home.

Facts

Support for new moms

Newborn care class: One 2 1/2-hour session, Shands at UF, $15 registration, call 265-0593.

Postpartum luncheon: For mothers who give birth at North Florida Regional Medical Center, support and education, Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m.; call LaChele Reece for information, 333-5315.

It's a sad truth brought into the spotlight after the recent deaths of two Gainesville babies, one 14 months old and the other just 6 months, who were each "co-sleeping" in the same bed with an adult family member.

Last February, the American Association of Pediatrics reported that infant deaths due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed have quadrupled since 1984. Beds, cribs and couches have proven fatal for babies who were accidentally suffocated while sleeping.



Over the same period, the national organization's figures show, unexplained deaths from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, have gone down. The rate is now 0.57 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

Area pediatricians and child safety experts say there are steps parents can take to minimize the hidden household dangers that could put their young baby at risk.

New mothers who deliver at Shands at the University of Florida or North Florida Regional Medical Center's Women's Center receive information on these safety steps before they leave the hospital with their newborn. Here are five worth reviewing:

"Back to Sleep"

Dr. Maria Kelly, a pediatrician with Shands UF, puts the AAP "Back to Sleep" campaign at the top of her list of basics for new parents.

A generation ago, moms were told to put a baby to bed on his stomach. That can increase the risk of SIDS.

Instead, put the baby down for a nap or for the night on his back.

If your baby doesn't sleep well on his or her back, swaddle the baby "like a burrito" in a baby blanket, Kelly advises.

Save "tummy time" for times of the day when the baby is awake.

"Co-sleeping"

In some cultures, putting an infant to sleep in the parents' bed is a long-accepted tradition.

Supporters hold that bed-sharing promotes bonding, allows the parents to get more sleep and facilitates breastfeeding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does encourage room-sharing (or co-sleeping on a separate surface) in its policy statement regarding SIDS prevention, but has come out against bed-sharing with small babies. Instead, AAP recommends putting the baby in a bassinet, crib or cradle close to the parents' bed in the same bedroom.

Safer sleep time

Kelly warns that "soft goods" in the baby's sleeping area can put them at risk. Blankets and other fluffy, loose items can cover your infant's head and block their airway.

Avoid using pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, soft-padded crib bumpers and stuffed toys where your baby sleeps.

Put them down on a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib, not the sofa or the middle of your bed. Put them to bed in a one-piece sleeper to keep them warm without getting them overheated.

No bottle, please

Don't put a baby to bed with a bottle, Kelly advises. If they should choke, "they're too small to protect their own airway," she said.

And for you, no smoking. Smoking while pregnant will increase your baby's risk of SIDS. And tobacco smoke anywhere in the baby's environment is bad news for tiny lungs.

How about a pacifier?

Many parents want to discourage their kids from getting too attached to a pacifier. Many experts, however, think a pacifier is a good way to help a baby soothe himself at bedtime.

The AAP recommends that if you are breastfeeding, wait until the baby is at least a month old and then offer a pacifier only at sleep times. Don't reinsert the pacifier once your baby falls asleep.

Contact Diane Chun at 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

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