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Sleeping Safely

by Maxine
Posted August 18 2010 03:50pm
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Most new parents have heard about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or “Crib Death,” as it is sometimes called. The sudden and unexpected death of a healthy infant under the age of one occurs more often than you would think – in Canada, three babies a week die from SIDS. Why this happens is still unknown, but certain factors are known to increase the risk of SIDS.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce the risk.

“SIDS is a scary prospect for parents,” says Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. “But through a few simple precautions there are some strategies you can use to limit your baby’s risk.”

  • Put baby to sleep on his back. Unless your baby’s doctor has told you otherwise, the safest position for newborns to sleep is on their backs. Contrary to what lay people may have told you, this position is not more likely to cause your baby to choke. When babies are old enough to turn over on their own, you do not have to force them to sleep on their backs.
  • Ensure there is good air circulation around baby’s face. Check that the mattress is firm and flat, and that it fits the crib well. Don’t forget to throw away the plastic wrapping that the mattress came in. This will help prevent your baby from smothering. Also, to prevent suffocation, do NOT put pillows, comforters, stuffed animals or bumper pads in your baby’s crib.
  • Make your baby’s environment smoke and drug free. To reduce the risk of SIDS and other causes of disease and disability, moms should not use drugs, alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs before and during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding. As parents, you will need to make sure that nobody smokes near your baby. This is healthier for your baby and it reduces the risk of SIDS.
  • Don’t let baby get too hot. Babies need to be warm, but making them too hot can increase their risk of SIDS. How can you tell? Chances are that if the room feels warm enough for you, it’s warm enough for your baby. Feel the back of your baby’s neck, rather than your baby’s hands and feet – they’ll always feel cooler. If the back of his neck feels warm, your baby is warm. Put the same number of layers as you’re wearing on your baby, with maybe an extra light layer. Your baby should not be sweating.
  • Try breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not only the best way to feed your baby, it may also protect from SIDS.

No sleep environment is completely risk free, but you can do a lot to keep your baby safe. In addition to the recommendations above, The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends:

  • Place your baby in a crib that meets the Canadian Government’s safety standards. This is the safest sleeping environment for your baby in the first year.
  • Do not share your bed with a baby under the age of 1 year. This increases the risk of SIDS. If you want your baby near you at night, put your baby’s crib in your room.
  • Avoid air mattresses, waterbeds, pillows, soft materials and loose bedding. They are unsafe—even for temporary sleeping arrangements.
  • Avoid using foam wedges or rolled towels for positioning your baby for sleep.
  • Don’t use your baby’s car seat or infant carrier as a substitute crib—even when travelling. The harness straps could cause your baby to stop breathing.
  • Do not sleep or nap with your baby on a couch, recliner or cushioned chair. It could result in a fall, injury or suffocation.
  • Don’t leave bottles of milk or juice in your baby’s bed because these are choking hazards.

Click here to learn more about your sleep and your baby.

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