Manatee County unfortunately has had too many babies die unnecessarily. This is a tragedy that impacts not only the immediate family but our community as a whole.
Why are our babies dying? Tragically it is because someone accidentally fell asleep and unknowingly smothered a baby.
Since 1996, we have had a nationwide campaign to educate everyone that it is safer to put a baby to sleep on their back than their tummy. Also addressed in the campaign was the idea that babies should sleep in their own designated safe place. There has been dialogue in homes, offices, lectures, newspapers, magazines, conferences, discussing the safest place for a baby to sleep. Local organizations have raised money to provide places for babies to sleep in a safe place. Families have been provided baskets, pack-and-plays and cribs to place their babies to keep them safe. Yet, too many babies are still dying from accidental smothering.
Both the sleep position of the baby, and the place where the baby is sleeping are important. They are what most people concentrate on when discussing safe sleeping for a baby. What they forget to discuss are other factors that are also very important for a baby to be safe while sleeping.
Other factors that affect the safety of the baby are: cigarette smoke in the house, obesity of the person sleeping with the baby, any substance that can alter the consciousness of the adult that is with the baby, how many people are sharing the sleep surface, whether the baby is getting breast milk. All of these factors influence a baby's survival.
For the most part people are only thinking about beds when discussing what has been called "co-sleeping." Recently I saw a picture of a wide awake father sitting upright in bed with his wide awake 4-month-old daughter watching television. The picture was obviously taken by a wide awake mother. This is not co-sleeping, everyone was awake. Yet, they received some nasty messages from people accusing them of putting their daughter in danger because the picture was taken in a bedroom on a bed. Their daughter was in no danger.
What can we do? People that read my column already know all of this, you are the choir. We need to get the choir to sing loud and clear to parents, grandparents, caretakers and friends to utilize every resource to make sure that every baby has a safe place to sleep, and that the baby sleeps there.
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. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.