If you're anything like I was as a new parent, then chances are you're well-aware of the latest safety recommendations on well, everything baby-related. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I devoured any and all information I could to prepare me for new motherhood. And one of the recommendations drilled into my head over and over again? The importance of safe sleep conditions for young infants — along with the increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if caregivers ignored this advice. However, it's worth pointing out that grandparents and babysitters might not be up-to-date with the latest recommendations, as a new study has found. As such, talking to your babysitter about safe sleep practices is so important.
A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that infants who died in their sleep while under the care of a non-parent had often been place in unsafe sleep conditions (like on their bellies), or in unsafe places (like on a couch), Science Daily reported. For the study, researchers from the University of Virginia Health System looked at over 10,000 infant deaths. Out of this sample, 1,375 happened when a parent wasn't present.
"A lot of relatives and friends may not be aware that babies are safest on their backs," one of the study's authors, Jeffrey Colvin, MD, said of the findings, according to Science Daily. "They may have raised children before we knew that this was safest."
Here's a quick look at the study's findings, according to the new release:
- Babies were less likely to be placed in their backs to sleep than when their parents were caring for them.
- Licensed childcare providers (72.5 percent) were more likely to place infants in cribs or bassinets — as recommended — than babysitters (49.1 percent,) relatives (29.4 percent,) and friends (27.1 percent.)
- Licensed childcare providers (54.1 percent) were also more likely to place babies on their backs than relatives (38.4 percent,) friends (38.6 percent,) and babysitters (37.8 percent.)
- When cared for by friends and relatives, infant deaths were most likely to happen while babies were held or put on and adult bed.
"If someone else — a babysitter, relative, or friend — is taking care of your baby, please make sure that they know to place your baby on the back in a crib and without any bedding," one of the study's authors, Rachel Moon, MD, said in a news release. She added:
It's always best to discuss where and how your baby should sleep. You can't make assumptions that the person with whom your baby is staying will know what is safest.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), caregivers should always place babies on their backs for sleeping until their first birthday, whether it's nap time or at night. Furthermore, babies should be placed on a firm surface — a crib, bassinet, or play yard that meets safety standards — with a tight-fitting, firm mattress and fitted sheet. Nothing else should be in the crib with the baby. No blankets, pillows, toys, bumpers, etc. And if an infant happens to fall asleep while in a swing, care seat, stroller, etc., you should move them to a firm surface on their back ASAP. Additionally, caregivers should never place a sleeping baby on a couch or armchair.
My mother — bless her heart — once explained to me that babies were put to sleep on their bellies so they wouldn't choke on their spit-up. But this simply isn't the case, as the AAP explains:
Some parents worry that babies will choke when on their backs, but the baby's airway anatomy and the gag reflex will keep that from happening.
It's worth noting that SIDS is the leading cause of death for babies between 1 month and 1 year of age, according to the AAP. In fact, before the Back-to-Sleep campaign was initiated in 1994, nearly 4,700 U.S. infants died from SIDS in 1993 alone, according to the AAP. Between 1993 and 2010, however, the percentage of infants placed to sleep on their backs increased from 17 percent to 73 percent — and the number of babies dying from SIDS decreased to 2,063 per year as of 2010.
So clearly, safe sleep practices are saving babies' lives — and a conversation with any caregiver for your child is absolutely worthwhile.
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