Addressing Sudden Infant Deaths: A Safer Place for Sleeping Children
Recognized as an Infant Safe Sleep Hospital Model of Excellence, Women’s Hospital is helping raise community awareness about sudden infant deaths.
North Carolina has among the highest infant mortality rates in the country, according to health statistics. In 2012, 16 Guilford County infants died in their sleep, making the county one of the most dangerous places for sleeping children in the state. Women’s Hospital is focused on raising awareness and educating the community about SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for infants from 28 days old to 1 year of age. Boys are more often affected than girls, and 90 percent of SIDS deaths occur before the infant turns six months old. SIDS is not hereditary. Preterm babies are at higher risk for SIDS. American Indian and Alaskan Natives have the highest SIDS rate, followed by African-Americans, Caucasian, Hispanic and Asians.
Designated an Infant Safe Sleep Hospital Model of Excellence by the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation, Women’s Hospital is dedicated to educating parents about the causes of infant mortality.
“Our goal is to not only give babies a great start in life, but to help new moms understand the simple steps they can take to create a safe place for their child to sleep as well,” says Sue Pedaline, DNP, MS, RNC, Women’s Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Maternity-Child Services, Cone Health. Women’s Hospital must meet four areas of excellence – policies, staff training, patient education and modeling, and community outreach – to attain a Safe Sleep top designation, which is endorsed by the N.C. Hospital Association and N.C. Child Fatality Task Force.
While SIDS may not be totally predictable or preventable, there are ways to greatly reduce the chances of an infant dying in his or her sleep. Parents are urged to:
- Place their baby on the back to sleep, every sleep. Back sleeping does not increase the risk of choking.
- Use a firm sleep surface with a tight-fitting sheet. Avoid letting a child sleep in car seats, swings, sitting devices and strollers.
- Avoid sharing a bed with their baby. Instead, place the baby’s cradle or crib close to the parent’s bed. Co-sleeping with a child less than four months old is especially dangerous.
- Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib. Don’t keep pillows, toys, comforters, quilts, bumper pads and head coverings in the crib. Sleep sacks are fine, but only swaddle babies from the shoulders down.
- Avoid tobacco smoke during and after pregnancy. In studies, exposure to secondhand smoke doubles the risk of SIDS.
- Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs. Sleeping with a child after consuming alcohol or drugs is particularly dangerous.
- Breastfeed for at least 6 months. Some studies find a 60 percent reduction in SIDS among breastfed babies. The best results were among babies who breastfed exclusively.
- Only after breastfeeding is well-established around three to four weeks should a pacifier be used. Never force a pacifier into a baby’s mouth while sleeping, and avoid attaching the pacifier to clothing or toys.
- Refrain from over-bundling a baby. Use no more than one layer of clothing more than an adult would need. Do not cover the face and head.
- Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS. None have been proven to work.
While some parents worry about their child spending too much time on their back, babies can get plenty of “tummy time” when they are awake and supervised by an adult.
When it comes to safe sleeping, Pedaline encourages parents to make sure babysitters, grandparents and others who care for babies know the rules as well.
About the Author
Sue Pedaline, DNP, MS, RNC is Women’s Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Maternity-Child Services for Cone Health