Are you putting your infant at risk when you put them to bed for the night?
The Minnesota Department of Health is encouraging parents to talk to caregivers, whether it be a grandparent or a babysitter, about the “ABCs” of safe sleep.
Minnesota data consistently has shown that unsafe sleep environments account for nearly all unexpected infant deaths in Minnesota. Every year, about 50 or more Minnesota babies die suddenly and unexpectedly, and nearly all those tragic deaths happen in an unsafe sleep environment.
State health department analysis of the 100 sudden unexpected infant deaths in 2018 and 2019 found that 93% or 93 were sleep-related and happened in unsafe sleep environments, according to preliminary data.
A key takeaway for parents and other caregivers is to know the ABCs of safe sleep:
ALONE: Infants should always sleep or nap alone.
BACK: Always put a baby on their back to sleep or nap.
CRIB: Babies should always sleep or nap in their own safety-approved crib or play yard without blankets or pillows.
“Safe sleep practices are essential for all child care providers, whether they be full time, part time or friends and family just watching a baby for an evening or afternoon,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We need to give all families and those caring for an infant the education and the support they need to create a safe sleeping environment, such as a dedicated crib, for infants.”
Parents can consider sharing a video, Safe Infant Sleep for Grandparents and Other Trusted Caregivers (available on YouTube), and should also be aware that the law requires licensed child care providers to comply with infant-specific safe sleep standards and training requirements.
Progress is being made to address unexpected infant deaths. After the 2013 implementation of new standards and training requirements for safe sleep practices, deaths in licensed child care have decreased significantly, according to health experts. In recent years, the number of all infant child care deaths, sleep related and otherwise, have stayed below three a year since the standards went into effect, compared to before the standards when there were at least six infant child care deaths each year during the years 2008-2012 with 12 in 2008.
The health department review of infant deaths found that soft items such as blankets, pillows, crib bumpers and toys in the crib pose a hazard, as does exposure to cigarette smoke. It is also important for infants to sleep separately from other sleeping children and adults since research has found that keeping infants in bed with others is hazardous.
One positive alternative is co-rooming, where the baby sleeps in their own safety-approved crib, bassinet or play yard but is nearby for breastfeeding and nighttime diaper changes. A safe sleeping environment is just as important during naptime as it is during nighttime sleeping, according to the health department.
Instead of using blankets to keep infants warm, parents are urged to dress babies in pajamas or other clothing appropriate for the temperature. As always, parents should talk with a doctor or nurse if they have questions or concerns.