Baby Talk: Here are some guidelines to promote safe sleep for children under age 1

Nothing is worse than waking up and finding your baby dead.

Wow, that was a hard sentence to type — even the words bring chills and utter sadness.

Unfortunately, this happens to approximately 3,500 families a year in the U.S.

We have experienced a dramatic decline in baby deaths while they sleep since the 1990’s. Recommendations regarding where a baby should sleep and what the environment should look like have helped dramatically lower the number of parents finding their baby dead.

Why? Because the majority of these babies died because of asphyxia. Something obstructed their ability to breathe.

That something could have been a blanket, a stuffed animal, a bumper pad, another person overlying on them, being placed in something that was not designed for a baby to sleep, getting stuck in a spot that inhibited them from escaping the dangerous spot.

Asphyxia is the leading cause of death in healthy infants under the age of 1. Unfortunately, the number of deaths are starting to creep up.

October has been dedicated not only to breast cancer awareness but also to increase the awareness of safe-sleep practices for children under the age of 1.

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Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace.

At the national level, the federal government supports research to better understand sleep-related deaths and strategies to improve safe-sleep practices. The American Academy of Pediatrics regularly promotes to its members updates on safe sleep.

At the local level, birth educators and providers of care to mothers and babies promote and display safe-sleep practices. At the hospital, we model safe-sleep practices by teaching parents, removing objects we know are dangerous and providing education regarding safe sleep.

We have each family sign a paper in which they acknowledge they understand what a safe-sleep environment looks like.

So what does a safe-sleep environment look like?

A baby should sleep alone in their crib or bassinet. A baby should be placed on their back to sleep, for naps and for longer periods of sleep. A baby should be dressed in sleep clothing, such as a one-piece sleeper.

Do not use blankets and make sure the baby’s head is not covered.

The sleep surface should be firm. They should be in an approved sleep crib or bassinet, covered with a fitted sheet. Do not use pillows, blankets, sheepskins or crib bumpers anywhere in a baby’s sleep area. Keep soft objects out of a baby’s sleep area.

Do not smoke or let anyone smoke around the baby.

If you are sleepy, give your baby to someone else to hold or put your baby in his or her safe sleep place.

These are the ideal practices for a safe sleep place for a baby. Yes, some mothers have had their babies close to them and slept with them and their babies are just fine. I am one of those mothers.

I even had a sheepskin for one of my babies to sleep on. I am very grateful and thankful my children thrived.

These are the best guidelines we have to promote safe sleep.

We know babies, overall, are safer during sleep following these guidelines.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living in the Bradenton Herald. Contact her at

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