Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back to Sleep Campaign

I am mentioning a sad story today in hopes of helping other parents. A 7 week old baby in Pekin, Illinois died this week and the coroner attributes the death to the baby being placed on his stomach to sleep. This is so sad. I know my oldest son loved to sleep on his stomach when he was first born, but I only let him do so if I was lying down and he was on my stomach. The coroner ruled the baby's death accidental.

The Back to Sleep campaign started 13 years ago and according to the AAP, the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has dropped by 50%. The SIDS Network describes The syndrome as a the sudden death of an infant which remains unexplained after all known and possible causes have been carefully ruled out through autopsy, death scene investigation, and review of the medical history. We don't know whether the baby mentioned above died from SIDS, but this is a good reason for all of us to brush up on the facts.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • About one in five sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS) deaths occur while an infant is in the care of someone other than a parent. Many of these deaths occur when babies who are used to sleeping on their backs at home are then put to sleep on their tummies by another caregiver.

  • Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs and are put to sleep on their tummies are 6-9 times more likely to die from SIDS.

  • Side sleeping is not as safe as back sleeping and is not advised.

  • SIDS is most common among infants that are 2-4 months old

  • SIDS is more common in male babies

  • SIDS is more common during the winter months

  • The leading cause of death for infants between
    1 month and 12 months of age is SIDS

The AAP recommends putting a child on his/her back to sleep until age one. I know my baby started rolling over on his stomach when he was about 5 months old. My pediatrician said that is okay if they do it on their own, but make sure there are no blankets, animals or other things that could suffocate the child.

The Central Illinois area had several babies die a few years ago in a short period of time after parents put the baby to sleep in their bed and the baby suffocated. This is certainly a scary situation.

Kids Health. org looks at whether Cosleeping is Safe?

Despite the possible pros like being close to your baby and making breastfeeding easier, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds, stating that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. And the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is in agreement with the CPSC.

We used the pack n' play with a bassinet feature. I put it right next to the bed. I picked up and fed him in bed, then put him back in the pack n' play to sleep.

What did you do with your kids? I know things have changed a lot since I was a baby.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Shannon said...

We have always co-slept with our children until they made the move to the crib on their own - all at varying ages but all somewhere around 6 months. It wasn't planned, but the natural evolution of things. Some studies have shown the risk of SIDS greatly decreases when babies sleep next to their mothers - not only are mothers more in tune and likely to notice breathing disruptions in their baby, but babies' little bodies tend to mimic the breathing pattern of their mother next to them.

I'll probably get flamed for saying this... but I still struggle to understand why co-sleeping is considered dangerous when about 50 babies a year die in bed with their parents, but cribs are considered safe and 3,000 babies die in cribs alone every year.

Very often when a co-sleeping death happens, it is related to drugs, alcohol, or obesity. But those things rarely make the news stories - either because of a fear of making the parents feel guilty or because it wouldn't make for the same kind of headline. You rarely see stories about babies who die in their cribs, although it happens much more often. I might go so far as to suggest that the co-sleeping deaths make news because they are *more* unlikely and more of an anomaly.

And really - the CPSC recommends cribs? Could that be because their very existence depends on devices like cribs? Call me cynical...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not black or white. I think parents should figure out what works best for their family, and above all else, be educated about whatever they choose. I know an awful lot of people who co-sleep but are afraid to talk about it. Maybe we should focus on educating parents about how to keep all sleep options safe.

As for the Pekin couple... my heart goes out to them, and I'm not going to judge them. We don't know all the details of what happened, and I don't want to jump to any conclusions. said...

Thanks for your insight Shannon! It sounds like you know a lot about the topic. I always wonder if there are varying views on these things. I guess this can be a touchy subject.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to the family for their loss. I can only imagine what they must be going through. Our children were brought home on apnea monitors due to prematurity and complications that arise because of it, so co-sleeping was out of the question. They were always placed on their backs, but I would still get up and check on them out of fear. Shannon brings up an interesting point that may want to be explored a little more carefully. On average how many children die from cribs vs. co-sleeping nationwide? What are the ages, etc.? It would be interesting to see the statistics.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to this family. I lost my son to SIDS in 1997 and it's a horrible thing to go through. I wanted to alert you to the wonderful organization First Candle/SIDS Alliance ( They are the national non-profit organization that funds SIDS research and provides support to parents. They were tremendously helpful to me when I was going through my grief. said...

I will see what I can find on co-sleeping versus crib deaths.

Maria said...

I thought I had posted a comment, but something must have gone wrong.

I co-sleep with my son, and it was encouraged by my midwife in Germany. Other countries also encourage co-sleeping-- Sweden comes to mind-- as well as some US doctors (Dr. Sears is especially helpful and informative).

Also, it is not truly SIDS if the child suffocates due to improper bedding or similar incident. SIDS is the diagnosis when no other "cause" of death can be found.

Overall, co-sleeping works for us, and we also use "other" attachment parenting techniques with our son. I could imagine it no other way, but to each his own.

Diane Vespa said...

We employ the "whatever it takes" methodology when it comes to sleep in our home. If that means I sleep on the floor, all 4 of us in one bed, me and a child on my tummy in the recliner, all 3 of us on the floor... so be it. We do whatever it takes at that moment to resume sleep. Works well for me. We are all very versatile and give us a pillow and blanket and we'll sleep anywhere! said...

I so wish my kids would sleep anywhere. Instead, they sleep nowhere! My husband and I were up 9times last night. I don't know if that counts as sleeping??? Luckily, they're old enough that I realy don't worry about the back to sleep part. The baby does not have covers in his crib.

Pam & Bill said...

Thank you for your excellent post on SIDS and Accidental Suffocation. As Executive Director for Sudden Infant Death Services of Illinois, I am glad to see that you are making a distinction.

In the last 15 years, research has been growing and developing - hence the original "Back to Sleep" program. What we have found is that the basic safe sleep tools that we can use to keep an infant safe from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome also prevent an accidental suffocation death.

We know that the safest place for baby to sleep is in a safe crib, alone with no soft bedding. That means no bumpers, no boppys, no pillows, quilts, laundry, or stuffed animals. We prefer a blankietless crib. Dress baby in a sleepsack or appropriate jammies.

For advocates of co-sleeping, it is important to use clear terms. Bedsharing can be dangerous to the young infant. Room sharing is always recommended.

It is a competition issue. Infants cannot move away or push away from an obstruction. In fact, an infant is 40 times more likely to die in an adult bed than in a safe crib placed next to the parents. Why? Because the adult bed was not designed for an infant. Beds in the United States are soft, have lots of soft bedding such as pillow toppers, quilts, pillows, memory foam.

We encourage baby to brought into the adult bed for play time with parents and even for breastfeeding, but when its time to sleep, place them in their own safe place.

If you closely read the materials of bedsharing advocates like Drs. Sears and McKenna, they give a long list of safety tips for bedsharing with an infant. Too long for this blog, but first and foremort is "Do Not Bedshare if Mom or Dad are too tired." That pretty much excludes all new parents.

I see the death reports on infants in Illinois and I work with the grieving families. Please don't assume that most people who experience and accidental suffocation are smoking or on drugs. Most are just like you and me, they love their children and are just trying to get thru the night with a little sleep.

If anyone has questions on safe sleep please feel free to call us at 1-800-432-7437 (in Illinois) or 630-305-7300 (outside Illinois).

As a SIDS Mom myself, I can tell you that our families who experience the death of an infant - regardless of the diagnosis, need all the help and compassion that we can muster. If your infant survived, you were lucky - not necessarily correct. Remember, most babies live. In 1991 when my daughter died, there were more than 5500 deaths due to SIDS, with todays Safe Sleep practices, there are about 2200. That's alot of families who have infants that survived.

Pam Borchardt
Executive Director
Sudden Infant Death Services of Illinois

Diane Vespa said...

Pam - My condolences on the loss of your child. Thank you for the work that you do. I'm sure you have helped a lot of families. God bless you and your little angel.

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