Babies continue to die from unsafe sleep practices

A checklist for what is and isn't safe for baby

When my kids were born, they both suffered from awful reflux. In fact, while my second was still in the hospital she continually gagged. It kept me up all night, afraid she was going to choke and stop breathing. I remember sitting in a chair, holding one of them all night so she could be vertical and settle down. I’m sure I dozed off.

I now know I did something wrong — and potentially deadly. I know I’m not alone. Having a baby sleep on an adult bed, in bed with an adult or in the arms of a sleeping adult is part of a larger issue: safe sleep.

More than 2,000 babies in the United States die each year from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related environment issues, such as suffocation from bed sharing (or sleeping on an adult’s chest) or being placed to sleep on his or her stomach.

In 2012 in Jefferson County, Kentucky alone, 19 children died from an unsafe sleep environment.

“To keep children safe, parents, grandparents and caregivers need to follow the ‘ABCs of sleep’: Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, in a safe Crib,” said Erika Janes, R.N., child advocate with the Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital and Coordinator of Safe Kids Louisville.

 “It’s very tempting to let a crying infant fall asleep in your bed or on your chest on the couch, but it can be deadly,” Janes said. “If you fall asleep with the child next to you or on you, you could roll over onto your baby or your baby could slide off of your chest and be stuck next to you, causing suffocation. I cannot stress how important it is for babies to sleep alone, on their backs, in a crib.”

“This does not mean that a baby should never be placed on his or her stomach,” said Richard A. Boada, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Hospital Medical Associates – Jeffersonville. “Spending time on the stomach, often called ‘tummy time,’ helps with shoulder development, so parents should make sure the baby spends time on the stomach — but only while he or she is awake and supervised.”

Other steps for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Avoid sharing your bed with an infant. Not only is the mattress surface and bedding hazardous, but infants can be suffocated by a sleeping adult or other children.
  • Avoid smoking during pregnancy and never smoke in the house, car or near a baby or child.
  • Do not place quilts and other fluffy material under or around a sleeping baby. Also, do not let babies sleep on soft surfaces such as sofas, soft mattresses or pillows. These items can obstruct breathing.
  • Keep pillows, stuffed animals and other soft materials, including bumper pads, out of the infant’s crib. These can obstruct the baby’s breathing.
  • Avoid overheating. Keep the room temperature comfortable to a lightly clothed adult. Never use a blanket to cover your baby. Instead, use footed pajamas or a sleep sack. Also avoid using a hat.

For information on infant sleeping position, talk to your pediatrician. For additional information on safe sleep, visit


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