From January 2006 through August of this year in Philadelphia, 43 infants have died in unsafe sleeping environments, defined as the baby co-sleeping with an adult or older sibling, being placed on an unsafe sleeping surface (sofas, cushioned chairs, or cluttered cribs), or sleeping in the presence of tobacco smoke. Over the past 18 months, more Philadelphia infants have died in unsafe sleeping environments than have died from physical abuse over that same time span.
Whatever perceived benefits may accompany co-sleeping pale in comparison to the very real and significant risks involved. Sleeping adults or older siblings can inadvertently roll over onto the infant, causing death by suffocation (a phenomenon known as “overlaying”). The other risks involved in co-sleeping include the infant getting trapped in the bedding, getting wedged between the bed and wall, or being knocked off the bed altogether.
A television, radio and print advertising campaign will begin running today in numerous media outlets. The message to parents is simple and direct:
For you to rest easy, your baby must rest alone.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) firmly states that the safest way of putting babies to sleep is to place them on their backs - never on their fronts or sides - in their own uncluttered cribs. Since 1992, when the AAP first recommended that babies be put to sleep on their backs, the rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the United States have declined. The AAP’s recommendations resulted from the discovery that babies sleeping on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS. The respected journal Pediatrics also found that children who share a bed with parents or siblings are at a higher risk of SIDS than are other infants.
“In both the AAP and Pediatrics studies,” Dr. Evans continued, “the recommendation is clear – babies belong in their own crib, never in a co-sleeping environment in an adult bed. Our message is clear: don’t do it. Parents must also understand that babies should not be laid down to sleep on unsafe surfaces, such as sofas or cribs cluttered with blankets and stuffed animals. These environments pose real dangers for babies. And infants must not be subjected to tobacco smoke under any circumstances. The dangers of secondhand smoke - especially with babies – are all too real.”
There are other safe sleeping tips that parents should be aware of to ensure the health of their infant children:
DHS and the Health Department acknowledge that, for many families, co-sleeping in the family bed is a socio-economic necessity. They simply can’t afford a crib. The Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) Cribs for Kids program provides safe sleep education and cribs to families in need across the Philadelphia region.
MCC and DHS are putting out the call for help to corporations, foundations and individuals to provide critical funding in order to meet the growing demand for cribs.
To request a crib – or to donate money for the purchase of new cribs – please call Cribs for Kids at 215.989.3589 or visit their Web site at www.momobile.org.