It may seem ludicrous to have to teach parents how to put their newborn babies to sleep. How difficult is it to put a child down and cover him?
And yet each week three babies in Ohio die because of unsafe sleeping environments, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That’s 156 tragedies a year.
Most of these deaths are preventable, says nurse and educator Linda Newhouse. “The statistic is pretty astounding.” Moreover, she describes the issue as “The low-hanging fruit. It’s something that we can make a difference in.”
The state’s infant mortality rate puts Ohio 47th in the nation, and among Ohio African-Americans, 49th, said Ms. Newhouse. Premature births are the leading cause of infant death, followed by sleep-related factors, said the advanced practice nurse and educator for women’s health services at Ohio Health Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus. Riverside is a part of the Ohio Health Corporation.
State health professionals have launched campaigns to raise awareness about the sleep issue, and have established an easy way for parents to remember what to do. The guideline is described as the ABCs of Safe Sleep: Put babies to bed Alone, place them on their Backs, and in a Crib.
That means not putting the baby to sleep on the sofa or a chair. It means not letting an infant sleep in the same bed with parents, siblings, or pets. And not even grandparents have an excuse for letting a new, warm, and cuddly baby sleep in a bed with them.
Newborns can be in the same room as parents, just not the same bed. “They should be in a bassinet or in a Pack and Play, but not on the same sleep surface,” Ms. Newhouse said.
This guideline runs counter to what many of today’s grandparents learned when their children were born, which was to put their babies to sleep on their stomachs. The goal was to keep babies from choking or aspirating.
“Now we know that babies are much safer on their backs,” Ms. Newhouse said. “You are better able to clear your airway if you are on your back.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also weighed in on the issue, advising against putting bumper pads, blankets, quilts or toys in the baby’s crib or bassinet.
"You don't need a quilt over the end of the bed," Ms. Newhouse added. "Use it to make a lovely room decoration. In Chicago, you cannot sell bumper pads in the city. They are outlawed."
To keep babies safe, sleep sacks are preferred, she said. "The baby just needs to be in a crib with themselves and nothing else."
Contact Rose Russell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.