Safe Sleep Conversations with Union Hospital

This month, we’re working with our sponsor, Union Hospital, to help clear up confusion, spread good information, and share friendly reminders of how to keep your baby safe while sleeping.

As licensed foster parents, my husband and I have had the complicated joy of bringing up multiple babies home from the hospital.

There is nothing more precious than the sweet, sleepy sighs of a healthy baby. But…nighttimes are a struggle for me.

Sure, the fact that babies wake up often to eat is part of the struggle! However, the bigger issue for me is the fact that I feel the enormous weight of the fact that I’m charged with protecting someone else’s child.

I recently had the chance to put some of my nighttime fears to rest when I quizzed the Director of Maternal Child Services at Union Hospital, Jaimee Goodman, on what Union Hospital recommends regarding safe sleep practices.

I can hear some of you saying to yourselves, “I already know all about safe sleep.” But don’t click away just yet! There’s a lot of old information floating around, so a refresher course can’t hurt.

How do I know bad info is floating around? In addition to anecdotal stories, I see unsafe sleep practices all around us!

As I was working on this post, I had the hardest time finding stock images that showed babies sleeping in safe positions. The pictures I found were of newborns wrapped up in big, fluffy blankets, babies sleeping on their bellies, babies sleeping in cribs with thick bumpers and downy pillows. Those poses make for adorable newborn pictures, but they’re not the safest way for a baby to sleep at night.

To help clear up some oh-so-common misconceptions, check out these notes from my conversation with Jaimee Goodman!

First things first: What are the current best practices for safe sleep? 

Remember the ABCs for safe sleep! Babies should sleep alone, on their backs, and in a crib.

Mattresses should be firm. Sheets should be fitted. Save the adorable blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows for when they’re toddlers!

For more details, the March of Dimes has an easy-to-read website with safe sleep guidelines.

But what about parents, grandparents, and babysitters who were given different sleep instructions in the past? 

Union Hospital recommends that parents and caregivers follow evidence-based medicine; the same is also true for safe sleep. We have more information, so we change our habits to be more safe. Consider the car seat analogy. Car seats are relatively new inventions, but parents today wouldn’t put a baby in a car without a car seat to zip down the highway at 80 miles per hour. We know better, so we do better.

Why is this important? 

Our community experiences about 30 infant deaths per year. The majority of these tragedies are preventable with the help of safe sleep practices. If you need a sleep sack, if your crib is malfunctioning, if your crib is missing parts, if you need a pack ‘n play, reach out! The hospital would be happy to help you find a safe solution. Our community has resources to offer you.

What advice do you have for new parents who are struggling to get rest with babies who are colicky, have reflux, or just won’t sleep? 
There are ways to make a mattress incline safely, but this should only be done after talking to a doctor about a plan.
Sleep-deprivation is a serious concern. Moms and dads, you need rest. You need a reprieve. You need a network of support that will follow safe sleep recommendations.
There are a lot of new products on the market to help ease parental fears. Would the (expensive-but-tempting) sleep socks that track oxygen and breathing be useful? 
Oxygen monitors could be useful, but they shouldn’t interfere with the safe sleep environment.
8 years ago when our oldest daughter was born, she was swaddled by the nurses in the hospital in a receiving blanket. Is that still standard practice?
Today, the hospital uses and recommends baby sleep sacks. These velcro or snap securely to assure the blanket will not ride up over the baby’s face causing suffocation.

When can a baby safely sleep on his/her belly? 

We tell people that they should always lay their babies to sleep on their backs. Once the baby is old enough and strong enough to roll over on his/her own, then it is okay for them to do that during the night. However, always put them down to sleep on their backs even then.

When can a baby safely sleep with a lovey, blanket, or stuffed animal?

Your baby should not sleep with any soft objects until he is at least 12 months old. Pillow-like toys, blankets, quilts, crib bumpers and other bedding increase the risk of death during sleep. It is best to follow the recommendations of making sure the baby is alone in the crib, on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet.

How does Union Hospital help new parents implement these safe sleep practices? 
Union Hospital sends all babies home with a sleep sack. They will also assist with connecting parents to community resources that provide pack n plays (which are safe sleep environments). CASY is a great resource for Indiana residents! Illinois residents don’t have quite as much state-funded support, but the hospital will work with all parents to find the resources they need.

Safe sleep is taught and practiced in the hospital. Parents, you should expect the hospital nurses, doctors, and caseworkers, and staff to talk to you about a safe sleep. They will also mimic safe sleep in the hospital, which means no stuffed animals in your baby’s bassinet and no falling asleep with your baby on your chest. Skin-to-skin contact is great when parents are awake and alert!

Have questions? 

Any questions can be directed to jgoodman@uhhg.org or  812-238-4960.

Tell your friends!
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