Guest Post: Safe sleep practices

head shot of meThis guest post was written by Cynthia Dennis, RN, BSN, Coordinator of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Northeast Florida at THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health/Wolfson Children’s Hospital

October is National SIDS Awareness Month. Sleep-related deaths are a leading cause of infant deaths in Northeast Florida and throughout the country. THE PLAYERS Center currently implements the Kohl’s Ready, Set, Sleep program, which promotes safe sleep guidelines and providing a safe sleeping environment. 

A survey recently conducted by American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide exposed the risks moms take in baby sleep safety. The results of the survey, which polled 4,547 mothers with babies less than one year old, were featured in a report titled “How Safe Is Your Sleeping Baby?”

According to the report, 96 percent of moms say they know the rules for safe sleep, which include putting baby to sleep alone, on his back, in a crib. However, only 66 percent follow this advice.

Common risks include putting baby to sleep on her stomach, placing at least one item inside baby’s crib and bed-sharing. Twenty-eight percent of moms with babies under age one put their babies to sleep on his or her stomach, a practice that leaves babies at increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Of those, 47 percent do it before their baby turns 3 months old, despite the fact that the risk of SIDS is highest in the first four months.

Seventy-three percent of moms report they’ve placed at least one item inside the crib with their babies. A blanket was most common, followed by bumper pads, stuffed animals, and pillows. All of these are suffocation hazards and can increase the risk of SIDS by five times for babies under age one.

Cindy promoting Ready, Set Sleep at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville during Rounds at the Grounds 2014.
Cindy promotes Ready, Set Sleep at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville during Rounds at the Grounds 2014.

The high number of moms who say they sleep with their baby was also surprising. Sixty-five percent of moms polled reported they’ve slept in bed with their infant; 38 percent do so regularly. And, 53 percent have slept on a couch with their infant. Studies show about half of all suffocation deaths among infants happen while bed-sharing, and that statistic has sadly been evident in Duval County, as 51 infants died while sharing a bed, couch, or chair from 2012-2015.

Mothers in our community choose to sleep with their infants for a variety of reasons, including feeling safer with the baby in bed with them, not having any other place for the baby to sleep and breastfeeding. Some aren’t fully aware of the risks. The results of this study should help those working to prevent bed-sharing and other causes of sleep-related deaths among infants in Northeast Florida understand the importance of designing programs to address a mom’s real motivations and needs.

Taking time to thoroughly educate families is the best way to help them make the safest choices.