As you pack your bags for holiday travel, do not forget to pack what you'll need to ensure a safe sleeping environment for your baby away from home.
Infants who can only lift their heads slightly rely on you to ensure that they are placed on their backs, and that they always have space to breathe that is free of pillows and soft bedding. If a child is placed on his or her stomach on a soft surface such as a pillow, sofa or adult bed, they cannot clear their faces enough to breathe.
In 2010, there were 35 injury-related deaths to Kentucky children under 1. Of those, suffocation was the cause of at least 60 percent, with 34 percent involving suffocations in bed. That's a whole classroom of kids lost to unsafe sleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome rates have been decreasing since we started to place babies to sleep on their backs. Unfortunately, deaths from unsafe sleeping conditions continue but are preventable.
Here are some simple guidelines to use in making sure your child is sleeping in safe and healthy conditions:
■ At home, decorate your nursery walls and furniture with color and imagination, but leave your baby's crib free of any extra soft material that can cause suffocation.
■ Use a bassinette, portable or permanent crib with a firm, well-fitting mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Bassinettes are useful because you can place them right next to the side of the bed within your reach, but the baby remains safe in his/her own protected space, and they can also be easily moved to another room during the day.
■ Find fitted sheets in bright patterns or colors, in cotton or soft flannel, but always keep blankets, bumpers, pillows, clean laundry, stuffed animals and other toys out of your baby's crib.
■ Keep the room comfortably cool to avoid overheating, and dress your baby in a sleeper warm enough that they do not need a blanket.
■ Smoking is associated with an increased rate of SIDS as well as other health problems.
■ At home and especially on the road, a portable crib can be very helpful. Adult beds, infant car seats and swings are not safe places for babies to sleep. Babies in adult beds can end up under the arm or body of a sleeping adult. A baby in an adult bed could also fall into the crack between bed and wall or headboard and become wedged there.
■ Avoid using positioning devices that claim to reduce SIDS, as none have been shown to do so, and some wedges were recalled after actually being found to increase the risk of suffocation deaths.
Every month in Kentucky, we review deaths of babies who died because of unsafe sleeping environments. Please use the above information to be sure that your baby is safe at home, during travel and while visiting.
Dr. Susan H. Pollack, pediatrician at Kentucky Children's Hospital, is Kentucky State Safe Kids coordinator.