By Ashley Wilson MS, Nutritionist, Peoria City/County Health Department
Having a new infant can be both exhilarating and exhausting. For parents, it may be difficult to remember every safety measure, especially if you might not even know something is dangerous until it’s too late. SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death) is one of those health safety issues that can affect babies. It can occur in infants less than one year old as an unexpected death during sleep or in their rest area. The good news is that SUID can be prevented by following Illinois Safe Sleep Support guidance to improve babies’ safe sleep environment, and most importantly, to help save lives. Parents, grandparents, and sitters should know the ABCS to keep infants safe—Babies should sleep ALONE, on their BACK, in a safe CRIB, in a SMOKE-FREE environment.
Babies should sleep ALONE.
The risk of SUID is 10x greater when infants share their beds and rest areas with other people or even toys. Although new parents like to spend time with their newborn, they should choose to share a room, not a bed. It is not safe for babies to sleep in an adult bed, as it increases the risk of suffocation and accidents. Babies are the safest when they sleep alone in their own crib or bassinet, where they will be close enough to see and hear, but far enough to keep them safe. That means no sleeping on couches or chairs with your infant on your chest. The risk of SUID can be 67x greater than sleeping separately. If you feel tired, it is always safest to put your infant down, even if they are crying or haven’t finished eating. It is recommended to place them in a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard where they will be enclosed alone.
Babies should sleep on their BACKs.
Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep, at nighttime, and for naps until they turn one year old. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are at increased risk for airway obstructions and low levels of oxygen. A sleep sack or swaddle may be used instead of a blanket to keep your infant warm and on their back until they can roll over (around 2–4 months). If your infant begins rolling over, it’s a good time to stop swaddling them, as the risk of suffocation is much higher if they roll on their stomach while swaddled.
Babies should sleep in a safe CRIB.
The crib should have a firm, flat mattress, and a fitted sheet—nothing else. Babies don’t need pillows, toys, stuffed animals, bumpers, or blankets in the crib with them. Research shows that babies sleeping outside their safe areas have higher rates of infant deaths. Do not use a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, infant sling, or similar products as your infant’s regular sleep area. Never place an infant on a soft surface, such as an adult bed, couch, pillow, quilt, or blanket. Babies who sleep under a soft covering are at greater risk of dying from SUID or suffocation.
Babies should sleep in a SMOKE-FREE environment.
Women should not be smoking during pregnancy, and nobody should be smoking around your infant. Smoking includes, but is not limited to, vaping and electronic cigarettes, hookah, cigars, and cigarettes. Research shows that babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke from others are at greater risk for SUID. If someone in your household smokes, ask them to do it outside and away from your infant. If your infant breathes secondhand smoke, their lungs can be permanently damaged and affect how they breathe later in life. Remember it’s OK to tell others not to smoke around your baby.
Being a new parent is exciting and you will be devoting much of your time and energy to taking care of your infant when they are awake. It is also just as important to keep babies safe while they sleep, so remember to follow the ABCS. To learn more about infant safe sleeping practices, go to https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=146357 or to Peoria City/County Health Department’s Child & Family Health webpage at www.pcchd.org.
Ashley Wilson is a WIC Nutritionist at Peoria City/County Health Department. Ashley holds a master’s degree in nutrition & dietetics from Eastern Illinois University with an expertise in the area of child nutrition.