In the United States, 20 percent of SIDS deaths occur while a baby is being cared for by someone other than a parent. "If you work outside the home and leave your baby in the care of anyone else, you must insist that the baby be put to sleep on her back," says Dr. Moon. It can be hard to convince grandparents and other caregivers that back-to-sleep is safer, she adds, "but we've found that if parents give them all the information about the risks, they will comply." Another powerful statistic: The risk of SIDS for babies who sleep on their back at home but are then put to sleep in the unfamiliar prone position by a nonparental caregiver increases by as much as 18 times.
Setting Up a Safe Crib
Babies who sleep in cribs (or on adult beds) with soft bedding -- such as pillows, comforters, and loose blankets -- or stuffed animals, are at risk for SIDS and suffocation. "There should be nothing, nothing in a baby's crib," says Dr. Moon. "A firm mattress, covered by a tight, fitted sheet, is what we recommend." If you use a bumper pad -- which is discouraged by the American SIDS Institute -- it should be thin rather than pillowy and well secured to the sides of the crib. Even during winter, reduce the urge to cover your baby in blankets. Wearable fleece sleep "sacks" are a great option for keeping babies warm. If you live in a moderate climate, use a lightweight sleeper; in colder climates, dress baby in a thicker fleece one. And if you've been turning down the heat in your home to keep your heating bills from skyrocketing, here's a gauge for knowing that baby's room is warm enough: Keep it at a temperature that feels comfortable to an adult in a short-sleeved shirt.
Dana Sullivan, a mother of three, lives and writes in Reno, Nevada.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2006.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.