National Breastfeeding Month 2022: Together We Do Great Things

National Breastfeeding Month 2022: Together We Do Great Things

This article was published for Crib Conversations, a bimonthly digest of news, resources and updates about infant safe sleep.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, which means that the end of August is a great time to think about how we can support new parents, help them reach their breastfeeding goals, and empower them with consistent information from trusted sources throughout the year.

Pediatrician Marianne Neifert, MD, is a member of the Infant Safe Sleep Partnership. Below, she provides information about the relationship between breastfeeding and safe sleep, and she encourages us all to be a part of the conversation to increase breastfeeding and infant safe sleep practices.

Q & A with Pediatrician Marianne Neifert, MD

Q: This year’s National Breastfeeding Month theme is “Together We Do Great Things,” a message that celebrates the power and impact of our collective efforts. How can safe sleep champions and breastfeeding advocates do great things together?

Neifert:  It’s fitting that last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released updated policy statements on both “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk” and “Sleep-Related Infant Deaths,” two key issues that impact new families. Infant feeding and sleeping are the two most daunting challenges that new parents face, and these fundamental infant activities impact one another.

Breastfeeding is a protective factor against sleep-related deaths and is important for the overall health and well-being of infants throughout their life. Yet, mothers who choose to nurse their babies do not always achieve their breastfeeding goals, and breastfeeding parents do not always apply what they know about infant safe sleep. Both breastfeeding and safe infant sleep practices are impacted by cultural values, unrealistic expectations, personal barriers, support systems, and variable daily circumstances. Furthermore, racial and ethnic disparities persist in both breastfeeding and safe infant sleep routines.

Marianne Neifert, MD

Marianne Neifert, MD

Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS, FAAP, aka Dr. Mom®, is a well-known pediatrician and nationally recognized expert in lactation management, who is among the most experienced and dynamic speakers who provide breastfeeding education for diverse health professionals. Dr. Neifert graduated with honors from University of Colorado School of Medicine and completed her residency training at University of Colorado Medical Center and Affiliated Hospitals. She is the Managing Member of Dr. Mom Presentations LLC and a clinical professor of pediatrics at University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.

Q: What were some of the key takeaways from the updated 2022 AAP Breastfeeding Policy?

Neifert: Traditionally the AAP has recommended exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, with continued breastfeeding through 12 months and beyond, as mutually desired by mother and baby, and as solid foods are added. In the 2022 policy, the AAP, consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO), supports continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond, acknowledging that mothers who decide to breastfeed beyond the first year often feel alienated and unsupported in their choice. Yet, human milk during the second year of life continues to be an important source of nutrients and immunologic factors for toddlers. Research emphasizes the importance of nutrition during “the first 1000 days” (conception to two years of age) on neurodevelopment and lifelong health. Breastfeeding beyond 12 months also continues to have a positive impact on maternal health, decreasing the risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and breast and ovarian cancer.

A major emphasis of the 2022 AAP Breastfeeding Policy Statement and accompanying Technical Report was an extensive review of the documented improved infant and maternal health outcomes linked with breastfeeding, including breastfeeding beyond one year. The 2022 policy statement also repeated past recommendations that birthing facilities implement maternity care practices that promote and support breastfeeding, such as WHO’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, including early skin-to-skin contact, frequent breastfeeding, and skilled lactation support. 

The AAP again acknowledged the importance of supporting breastfeeding and the use of human milk in reducing short- and long-term morbidities among very low birth weight infants. When a mother’s own milk is not available for these vulnerable infants, the AAP recommends pasteurized donor human milk.

The updated breastfeeding policy also re-emphasized that pediatricians need to be knowledgeable about breastfeeding benefits, management, and the provision of culturally congruent breastfeeding care; partner with community resources to improve breastfeeding support; and address inequities in the delivery of care to eliminate breastfeeding disparities. The AAP addressed the significant breastfeeding inequity issue that predominantly impacts the non-Hispanic Black population and acknowledged that breastfeeding-supportive hospital practices and peer support interventions for women enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have been shown to reduce breastfeeding disparities. The full policy statement and technical report can be downloaded below.

Q: Why do lactation care providers make ideal partners in promoting safe infant sleep?

Neifert: I view breastfeeding and safe infant sleep as dual aligned public health priorities and consider safe sleep proponents and breastfeeding advocates as ideal partners in safeguarding infant wellbeing. Lactation consultants and other lactation care providers are deeply committed to the welfare of infants and mothers and to reducing health disparities. They recognize the importance of breastfeeding in improving maternal-child health, including reducing sleep-related infant deaths. Lactation care providers develop quality client relationships within which empowering health information can be shared, and they work in maternity, pediatric, and public health settings. In addition, lactation care professionals are committed to lifelong learning and the use of evidence-based practices. 

Lactation care providers who work with expectant and new mothers have the opportunity and ethical responsibility to help prevent sleep-related infant deaths. The postpartum hospital stay provides a convenient early opportunity for hospital-based lactation consultants to teach and model safe infant sleep practices as part of their education about safe skin-to-skin care. 

Q: Can collaboration between safe sleep proponents and breastfeeding advocates more effectively promote safe infant sleep?

Neifert: In 2015, the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep and Breastfeeding Improvement and Innovation Network (NAPPSS-IIN) was launched to create a national coordinated strategy to engage the full set of partners to make safe infant sleep and breastfeeding the national norm. 

Some of us may have only one-time or limited contact with expectant or new parents—such as at a prenatal class—where we can offer conversation starters concerning the topic of safe infant sleep and elicit questions and concerns. Others will have ongoing interactions over a limited time period—such as during the postpartum hospital stay—where nurses and lactation consultants can facilitate safe sleep conversation deepeners. Still others—such as visiting nurses, WIC staff, or primary care providers–will engage with families through continuing interactions that permit ongoing dialogues. What’s important to remember is that compliance with safe infant sleep recommendations is increased when clients hear consistent information from multiple trusted sources and multiple times! 

Q: What if parents won’t commit to implementing the AAP recommendations?

Neifert: Despite our passion about safe infant sleep practices, we have to recognize that parents and other caretakers are the ultimate decision-makers about where and how their babies sleep. We must begin by meeting families where they are and conducting individualized, open, culturally appropriate, and non-judgmental conversations about their infant sleep practices. We can seek to understand personal, cultural, and community values and families’ life realities. And, we can learn to shift our attitude about our role as “experts” who make recommendations to being “resources” who support families to make their own decisions.

In our safe sleep conversations, we can:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. (“Have you thought about where and how your baby will sleep?”) 
  2. Practice reflective listening to confirm caretakers’ opinions, ambivalence, feelings, and concerns. (“So, you’ve heard that bedsharing makes nighttime breastfeeding easier.”)
  3. Use affirmations/validations and a strengths-based perspective. (“It sounds like you already have a great deal of information about safe infant sleep.”)
  4. Ask permission to share information. (“May I share some information/education you may not have heard about creating a safe infant sleep environment?”)

Other strategies to increase compliance with safe sleep recommendations include:

  1. provide families who do not have a safe sleep space for their infant with information about low-cost or free cribs/play yards;
  2. integrate safe sleep messaging with other health messaging, such as prevention of infant falls; and
  3. introduce safe sleep recommendations in school curricula to educate older siblings and teen babysitters about safe infant sleep practices.

Together we can do great things and save infant lives!

Get Involved

Subscribe to Crib Conversations

Get resources and articles like this in your inbox every other month. Subscribe to Crib Conversations, a bimonthly digest of news, resources and updates about infant safe sleep.

Select “Subscribe to Safe Sleep Blog Content & the bimonthly Crib Conversations Newsletter” under Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership.

Join the Infant Safe Sleep Partnership

The Infant Safe Sleep Partnership is actively seeking participation from a wide variety of communities committed to increasing infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities.

→ Select “Become an Active ISSP Member” under Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership.

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Big Changes This Summer Every Parent Needs to Know About to Create Safe Sleep

Big Changes This Summer Every Parent Needs to Know About to Create Safe Sleep

If you have a new baby in your life, or one on the way, you’ll want to be aware of the new consumer safety regulations, research and safe sleep guidelines this summer.

Here is a quick overview of all of the big news that you’ll want to know about to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant death. Be sure to share with anyone who is helping out with child care or thinking of buying gifts for your new baby. 

New Safe Sleep Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics

In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released its first update to safe infant sleep recommendations since 2016. The recommendations, which apply to children up to 1 year old, are based on an evidence review from nearly 160 scientific studies since 2015.

The AAP highlights that studies have demonstrated an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sudden unexplained infant death syndrome (SUIDS) when babies overheat while sleeping. This, in part, has lead the AAP to recommend that weighted blankets, weighted sleepers and weighted swaddles should not be placed “on or near” a sleeping infant and infants should not wear hats indoors except in the first hours of life or in the neo-natal intensive care unit as it can lead to your baby overheating.  

In its recommendations, the AAP also urges parents to make sure your baby sleeps on a flat – not inclined – surface during sleep and strongly discourages bedsharing. These practices are often used as means to alleviate the sleepless nights which are a stressful part of everyone’s journey through parenthood during this first year of life. 

“Parents might think that their infant is waking up too much during the night and fear that something is wrong,” said Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP in a news release from AAP.  “But babies by their nature wake up frequently during the night. Although this can be understandably frustrating for parents who are exhausted and losing out on their own sleep, babies have to wake to feed every 2-3 hours, so this is normal and healthy, and should be expected. When parents have questions about their infant’s sleep, they should always ask their pediatrician for guidance.”

Recommended reading

Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP is the lead author of the statement and technical report, generated by the AAP Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the AAP Committee on Fetus and Newborn.

In the article How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained on HealthyChildren.org, Dr. Moon walks through the recommendations and some ways parents and caregivers can help create a safe sleep environment.

The policy statement, “Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2022 Recommendations for Reducing Infant Deaths in the Sleep Environment,” published in the July 2022 Pediatrics and the accompanying technical report providing the evidence base for the updated recommendations will be a focus of the upcoming Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership meeting on July 11. Dr. Susan Hwang, a neonatologist with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will present on the policy statement and technical report.

New Law and Consumer Safety Rules in the U.S. are Creating a Marketplace that Promotes Safe Sleep

In May of this year, President Joe Biden signed into law the Safe Sleep for Babies Act, which bans inclined sleepers and crib bumper pads, both of which are unsafe for infant sleep and together have been linked with close to 200 reported deaths.  It will be illegal to make or sell both crib bumpers and inclined sleepers after November of this year, making it easier and less confusing for parents and baby shower gift buyers to follow the AAP guideline discouraging babies from sleeping on an inclined surface. 

Enacting this law was an important and critical next step toward creating a marketplace everywhere, for every baby, in the U.S. that will help parents and anyone shopping for families with a new infant prevent sleep-related infant deaths. Last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a new federal rule to ensure products marketed or intended for infant sleep provide a safe sleep environment for babies under 5 months old. Any product intended or marketed for infant sleep, such as inclined sleepers, travel and compact bassinets, and in-bed sleepers, which have been linked to dozens of infant deaths, must meet this new federal safety standard. 

Kate Jankovsky, childhood adversity prevention manager with the Violence and Injury Prevention-Mental Health Promotion Branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and member of the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership reflected on this new federal safety standard at the time it was announced last year.  “This change will be historic and save lives in Colorado,” said Jankovsky.  “[The new CPSC federal safety standard for infant sleep products] will make it easier for all consumers to buy, use and give infant sleep products as gifts. Today, many people are unknowingly buying products known to be unsafe for an infant to sleep.” Sadly, only a few days before the CPSC rule went into effect on June 23, 2022,  Fisher-Price issued a safety warning about rockers after 13 infant deaths. 

 

Recommended Reading

WhatToExpect.com shared more about what parents need to know about the Safe Sleep for Babies Act when the law was signed, including reasons why things like baby rockers and bouncers will be recalled — or are safe — based on the new law.

Your Community Impacts Your Ability to Create a Safe Sleep Environment At Home - Particularly for BIPOC People

While advocates and professionals in Colorado emphasize the promotion of safe sleep practices at home and in child care settings, environmental changes are necessary to create safe sleep for every baby, everywhere.  Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, the third leading cause of death for Coloradans under age 18 and accounts for significant infant mortality rate disparities in Colorado. These tragic realities for people of color were also identified by the AAP.

According to the AAP news release, while overall numbers of deaths have declined, persistent racial and ethnic disparities exist that reflect broader societal inequities, according to research. The rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native infants was more than double and almost triple, respectively, that of white infants (85 per 100,000 live births) in 2010-2013.

Social, economic, and environmental inequities, such as food insecurity and poverty in Colorado, provide an explanation as to why Colorado communities are experiencing significant infant mortality rate disparities. It is for this reason that the Infant Safe Sleep Partnership (ISSP) is focused on working collaboratively with families, providers and other community stakeholders to address three priority areas.

Recommended Reading

The mission of the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership is to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change and systems improvement.  

What's NOT Big News - "World first breakthrough could prevent SIDS"

That’s what the press release from the Sidney Children’s Hospitals Network was titled in May of this year when new research was released related to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The world took notice because all families deserve to have the support they need to create environments at home and in the community for their infants to sleep safely. The ABC’s of safe sleep are simple and easy: babies should be Alone on their Backs and in a Crib. Understandably, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare to follow all the safety guidelines and advice from their pediatrician, only to have their infant tragically die while sleeping as a result of unexplained causes or SIDS.

Perhaps that is why, when a new study was released in May of this year highlighting the identification of the first biochemical marker, Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), that could help detect babies more at risk of SIDS while they are alive, the news spread quickly through social media and traditional media news outlets. What made this news even more compelling was the fact that the lead author of the study, Dr. Carmel Harrington, was a mourning mother who lost her son Damien to SIDS 29 years ago. Still, numerous news reports have cautioned that while the preliminary findings offer hope, no – the cause of SIDS has not been identified.

Recommended Reading

The Atlantic explains how this inspiring research project went viral for the wrong reasons, causing a media train wreck many parents, Illuminate staff included, could look away from. 

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Do you know if your playdate’s house is a safe place to play?

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Sending your kids over to play at a friend’s house to play is one of the best ways to make it through the summertime while school is out, child care is limited and the need to find activities to entertain our kids is endless. But, it can also be a scary decision for any parent to make to entrust the safety of your child with another adult. Do you know if it is a safe place to play at your playdate’s house?

Birthing Hospitals Poised to Help Every Baby Sleep Safe in Colorado

Birthing Hospitals Poised to Help Every Baby Sleep Safe in Colorado

Many years ago, hospitals weren’t required to ensure that new babies went home in a car seat. That simple act of normalizing car seat safety as infants leave the hospital and head home with new, and often overwhelmed, parents and caregivers has no doubt saved countless lives. Today, hospitals can play a similarly crucial role in helping every baby sleep safe.

 

It’s as Easy as ABC

More than 61,000 babies are born in Colorado every year.1 Those first days and months are full of joy and stress for every family, so it’s important that each baby is surrounded by parents, family, friends, neighbors, licensed and unlicensed child care providers, health care professionals and communities working to create environments for infants to thrive and sleep safely.

Health care providers and hospital staff are sources of trusted information for new parents and have a critical opportunity to help families thrive, even after a family has left the hospital, by focusing on safe sleep in these precious first few days together.

And the ABC’s of safe sleep are simple and easy: babies should be Alone on their Backs and in a Crib. This means that babies should sleep on their backs on a firm, flat surface, separate from adults or others, without any bumpers, soft bedding or stuffed toys.     

Birthing Hospitals Are the First Step

Birthing hospitals play a critical role in teaching new parents and caregivers what safe sleep practices look like–so much so that, in the Colorado Child Fatality Prevention System’s most recent annual legislative report, one of the recommendations made following the review of child fatalities in Colorado was to support policies that expand education, modeling and discharge safety screening in birthing hospitals.

According to the report, at least six states require hospitals and health care providers to give parents and caregivers educational materials and information on infant safe sleep practices within health care settings, during a hospital stay or at discharge.2,3 The depth and breadth of safe sleep practices and policies at Colorado’s birthing hospitals is not widely or easily known.

Hospitals have multiple options for demonstrating their commitment to safe sleep in practice:

Shifting Practice through Cribs for Kids

For hospitals looking for a straightforward place to start, the Cribs for Kids National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program may be the best fit. Hospitals participating in this no-cost program receive resources and support in drafting safe sleep policies for their organization, training for all health care providers in safe sleep, safe sleep educational materials for families and caregivers, support for modeling safe sleep in all settings (labor and delivery, NICUs, etc.), and messaging around safe sleep in alignment with the AAP’s recommendations.

Cribs for Kids also provides a step-by-step hospital certification toolkit that guides organizations through certification requirements at the bronze, silver or gold levels depending on their commitments, policies and practices related to infant safe sleep. Of all the hospitals in Colorado, only one is currently certified by Cribs for Kids: Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, which is certified at the gold level.4

Certification programs like Cribs for Kids are just a start for shifting practice and addressing families’ needs. For long term changes in practice, ongoing support and accountability–such as through a quality improvement approach–are needed to sustain change. Additionally, input from families, especially around considerations for cultural responsiveness, linguistic accessibility and social and economic needs, is needed to develop hospital efforts that truly work for Colorado families.

While the first few days at a hospital are only one part of a new or expanding family’s safe sleep journey, Colorado has an opportunity–and an obligation–to shift practice in order to give our families the strongest and safest start possible.

Get Involved in October--and Beyond

>> October is Safe Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. Illuminate has put together some of our favorite resources to help community members and organizations alike raise awareness about this important topic, but it will take a sustained effort far beyond this month to create safe sleep for every baby everywhere in Colorado. 

>> Click HERE to learn more about the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership‘s mission to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities through education, practice change and systems improvement.

>> Sign up to receive our safe sleep newsletter to receive more updates on this important work and ideas for parents, caregivers, organizations and communities to create safe sleep for every baby everywhere.   

Citations
  1. Colorado Health Information Dataset (CoHID), Live Birth Statistics, Counts, 2020 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment retrieved on August 2021 from https://cohealthviz.dphe.state.co.us/t/HealthInformaticsPublic/views/COHIDLiveBirthsDashboard/LiveBirthStatistics. 
  2. The Network for Public Health Law. (2017). SUID Prevention, Infant Safe Sleep Law Table: Legal Provisions Relating to SUID Prevention in 5 States. Research conducted for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. To access: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NcPJerdHa1QrENg4nAdB2BPXqOeqJ8nl/view?usp=sharing
  3. Child Fatality Prevention System. (2021). Child Fatality Prevention System Annual Legislative Report. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 41-42.
  4. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (2015). Sudden unexpected infant death legislation.

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New Federal Safety Standard for Infant Sleep Products Help Make Smart Choices to Keep Kids Safe

New Federal Safety Standard for Infant Sleep Products Help Make Smart Choices to Keep Kids Safe

When you walk into any store to buy something for a new baby on the way, you assume that the products on the shelves are safe, but those who’ve spent some time learning about safe sleep recommendations and guidelines know that isn’t the case when it comes to infant sleep products. Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the approval of a new federal rule to ensure products marketed or intended for infant sleep will provide a safe sleep environment for babies under 5 months old. Beginning in mid-2022, any product intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet a federal safety standard—a requirement that does not exist today. 

The new mandatory standard will effectively eliminate potentially hazardous sleep products in the marketplace that do not currently meet a CPSC mandatory standard for infant sleep, such as inclined sleepers, travel and compact bassinets, and in-bed sleepers, which have been linked to dozens of infant deaths. Popular products formerly referred to as “inclined sleep products” include several styles that have been recalled over the years. In fact, just this week, Fisher-Price announced a recall of thousands of baby soothers, gliders after 4 infant deaths, including one baby from Colorado.  

“This change will be historic and save lives in Colorado,” said Kate Jankovsky, childhood adversity prevention manager with the Violence and Injury Prevention-Mental Health Promotion Branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and member of the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership. “This will make it easier for all consumers to buy, use and give infant sleep products as gifts. Today, many people are unknowingly buying products known to be unsafe for an infant to sleep.” 

The lack of regulation of infant sleep products and the abundance of unsafe sleep objects and devices manufactured and sold throughout the United States has frustrated advocates, health care professionals and parents who have lost children, alike, for years. Dr. Sunah S. Hwang, the Lula O. Lubchenco Chair in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Perinatal Health Services Research with the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Section of Neonatology, highlighted the need for action by the Commission in The Call to Translate Data Into Action to Prevent Infant Death published just last month. Stating “[a]lthough states such as Ohio, Maryland, and New York have banned the sale of unsafe items such as crib bumpers, these soft bedding objects continue to be manufactured, marketed, and sold. The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously in 2020 to proceed with developing a federal safety rule that would ban the sale of crib bumpers that limit airflow. We eagerly await the results of the federal rulemaking process.” Hwang highlighted the fact that

of SUID cases categorized as “explained” or “unexplained–possible suffocation,” 74% of airway obstructions were due to soft bedding. In short, 1145 infants may have survived their first year of life had soft bedding not been used during their sleep.”

Later this year, the Commission expects to consider federal safety standards for crib bumpers and crib mattresses. CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long warned of the dangers of bed-sharing or co-sleeping. The new rule does not take any action against bed-sharing without sleep products. Instead, it shifts responsibility to manufacturers to assist parents who want to bed-share, by requiring them to produce only products that are safe to do so. The new rule also does not extend to items that are expressly not intended or marketed for infant sleep, such as swings and car seats.

 

As a reminder, the safest place for a baby to sleep is a flat, bare surface dedicated to the infant. The Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership is actively recruiting members interested in getting involved to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change and systems improvement. 

Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

Few things are more exhausting than a new baby. Increased infant crying, perhaps a few older children to care for, and trying to get back to work after a few short weeks all result in very, very tired caregivers.

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October is Safe Sleep Awareness month. There has been a great deal of information shared this month around what a safe sleep crib looks like. And although it can sound a bit boring, ensuring cribs are free of objects which could lead to suffocation is worth the mental shift from “cute” to “safe”. Talking with all the family and friends who come in contact with baby about safe sleep practices is important to ensure even good-willed intentions do not lead to tragedy.

Adding Substance Use to the Mix

Imagine the last time you were beyond tired. Maybe you found yourself dozing off driving to or from work. Maybe you fell asleep watching a movie you actually wanted to see. Or maybe that last zoom call was just too long to handle. Sometimes our bodies take over even when we have every intention to stay awake.

Now take a moment and imagine adding substances that can lead to additional depression of the body’s ability to function, like alcohol, marijuana, some over the counter and prescription medications, and illicit substances. When contemplating the use of substances with a newborn in the home (separate from breastfeeding risks and substance use) it is important to be extra vigilant in ensuring your baby has a safe place to sleep.

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Caregiving of an infant is exhausting. Falling asleep when feeding a baby on a couch or in bed is not uncommon for a tired caregiver. The impacts and side effects of many common substances increases the risk of positional overlay, which is when a caregiver accidentally rolls over on a baby in bed or on a couch or large chair, suffocating the infant. If you are thinking right now you would totally wake up if you rolled over on a baby, remember the times noted above. You didn’t mean to fall asleep, but you did. And if a caregiver is exhausted, and impacted by substance use, whether they were feeding the baby, or in bed with a baby and an additional caregiver, the risk of positional overlay or entrapment increases. And sleeping on a couch with a baby increases the risk even more, especially when substances are involved.

Increasing Safety in Sleeping Environments

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are several ways to increase safety in sleeping environments, including:

  • Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night. 
  • Use a firm sleep surface. 
  • Room share—keep baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year. 
  • Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort.
  • Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
  • Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies. However, certain situations make bed-sharing even more dangerous. Therefore, you should not bed share with your baby if:
    • Your baby is younger than 4 months old.
    • Your baby was born prematurely or with low birth weight.
    • You or any other person in the bed is a smoker (even if you do not smoke in bed).
    • The mother of the baby smoked during pregnancy.
    • You have taken any medicines or drugs that might make it harder for you to wake up.
    • You drank any alcohol.
    • You are not the baby’s parent.
    • The surface is soft, such as a waterbed, old mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair.
    • There is soft bedding like pillows or blankets on the bed.
  • Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area. 
  • It is fine to swaddle your baby. 
  • Try giving a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. 

For more detailed descriptions of the above information, visit A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep.

You Are Not Alone

Being a caregiver for a newborn is exhausting. If you are a parent or caregiver reading this, know you are not alone and that feeling exhausted is normal. It will pass. You will find a new pattern and chances to catch up on sleep over the next few years. Following safe sleep practices now, including limiting substance use, and creating and using safe sleep environments, can reduce the risk of SUIDS and the risks of positional overlay. Reach out to parent groups, family or your community for support. Raising children is beyond hard!

For more information on resources to help provide safe sleep environments, call 1-800-CHILDREN, 2-1-1, or your local health department. For more information on finding support from other parents, visit CircleOfParentsCO.org.

Spread the Word about Safe Infant Sleep

Spread the Word about Safe Infant Sleep

To help raise awareness about safe infant sleep during Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month in October, we’re inviting you to participate in a fun and friendly photo activity called #SafeSleepSnap.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles—anyone can participate by sharing a photo of a baby in a safe sleep area on their social media accounts. Make sure you use the hashtag #SafeSleepSnap so everyone can see the adorable pictures of babies in safe sleep areas.

(Not sure what a safe sleep area looks like? Check out this page for details.)

Here are the specifics:

  1. Post a photo of your baby, grandbaby, niece, or nephew in or next to a safe sleep area on your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
  2. Use the hashtag #SafeSleepSnap in the post. This is how we’ll know you participated!
  3. Give yourself kudos for taking part in #SafeSleepSnap and helping raise awareness about safe infant sleep.

Be creative! Practicing safe infant sleep can be fun. Creativity and humor are encouraged in the photos and captions, as long as the baby’s sleep area follows safe sleep recommendations. This album  includes examples you can use as inspiration.

This is your opportunity to both show off your cutie and help other caregivers see that safe infant sleep can be fun! Illuminate Colorado is proud to serve in a convening role for the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership (ISSP), whose mission is to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change, and systems improvement. We will also be posting #SafeSleepSnap photos on our accounts throughout October. Please like the photos, retweet them, and share them with your friends and followers.

We look forward to seeing your #SafeSleepSnap!

For our organizational and community partners, we encourage you to use the Safe to Sleep Campaign’s #SafeSleepSnap Digital Toolkit to help raise awareness around infant safe sleep practices. In this toolkit, you can find resources for family-serving professionals and providers, as well as for caregivers and families! Resources are available in English and Spanish, and in a variety of user-friendly formats, including videos, infographics, and interactive tools.

Visit the Safe to Sleep website to explore information and resources, and to find out more about the campaign and toolkit.

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