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12 'safe sleep' tips for babies | MultiCare: SIDS Awareness Month

MultiCare Auburn Medical Center is giving away a free Halo SleepSack Swaddle to every baby born in October – SIDS Awareness Month.  - Courtesy photo/MultiCare
MultiCare Auburn Medical Center is giving away a free Halo SleepSack Swaddle to every baby born in October – SIDS Awareness Month.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/MultiCare

By Erin Summa
Child Safety Educator, MultiCare Health System

To encourage safe sleep practices for infants, MultiCare Auburn Medical Center is giving away a free Halo SleepSack Swaddle to every baby born in October, which is SIDS Awareness Month.

Sadly, most of the 4,500 unexpected infant deaths in the United States each year are related to accidental suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In 2011, 387 infants died in their first year of life in Washington state. Although the cause of injury may vary, studies have shown that both SIDS and suffocation share the same risk factors, and most are due to an unsafe sleep environment.

MultiCare chose to give away sleep sacks because they act as a wearable blanket, which keeps loose fabric away from baby's face. Correct swaddling can also be difficult for parents. If done too tightly, it can cause breathing and hip problems, and blankets swaddled too loosely can cover the nose and mouth, potentially suffocating the infant. The sleep sacks have swaddle wings which attach with Velcro, and are an easy way to keep baby both warm and safe for sleep. Parents are also provided with a card with other safe sleeping tips that have been shown to reduce the risk of both suffocation and SIDS.

After October, the Family Birth Center at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center will give new moms the board book "Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug" by pediatrician Dr. John Hutton and Leah Busch, who convey safe sleep practices in a creative way for parents and kids. MultiCare Auburn Medical Center is the first hospital in the state to give away this book to parents.

The sleep sacks and board books are funded by the Center for Childhood Safety at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center in Tacoma.

To create a safe sleep environment for your infant, follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which have been shown to reduce the risk of both suffocation and SIDS for babies younger than one year:

1. Start with the ABC's of Safe Sleep: Babies should sleep ALONE, on their BACK, in a CRIB.

2. Back to sleep, for every sleep. Babies should never be put to sleep on their tummy or side.

3. Baby must always sleep on a firm surface, like a crib or bassinet with a tightly fitted sheet. Never on an adult bed, couch, chair or pillow – due to risk of suffocation and entrapment.

4. Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib. Remove blankets, pillows, bumpers, and toys. Dress your baby in a sleep sack or footed pajamas for warmth and safety.

5. Room-share, but don't bed-share. We all want our babies close by at night, but many have suffocated when sleeping next to a well- intentioned parent, sibling, or pet – don't risk it. Enjoy cuddling with your baby when awake or breastfeeding, but return them to their own crib when it's time to sleep.

6. Breastfeed your baby for the best protection. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS and many other health problems, every bit helps.

7. Offer a pacifier when putting baby down for sleep. Don't force the pacifier, if your baby doesn't want it. And when it falls out during sleep, there is no need to put it back in. Breastfeeding babies should wait until they are fully accustomed to nursing, around 3-4 weeks.

8. Avoid overheating and overbundling. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.

9. Keep your baby's environment smoke-free. For help quitting, go towww.smokefree.gov

10. Avoid devices marketed to reduce SIDS. There is no evidence that they are safe or effective.

11. Encourage supervised "tummy time" when baby is awake. This will help to strengthen your child's upper body, and minimize flattening on the back of the head.

12. Keep up-to-date on your child's immunizations.

Erin Summa is a Child Safety Educator at the Center for Childhood Safety at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center. To learn more, call 253-403-1234 or visit www.multicare.org/mbbabysafety.

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