Baby ‘sleep sacks’ might be safer than blan­kets

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

IN­FANT sleep­ing bags, or sleep sacks, are at least as safe as other bed­ding in pre­vent­ing sud­den in­fant death syn­drome (SIDS) and might be safer, a new anal­y­sis con­cludes. SIDS is the sud­den, un­ex­plained death of a baby younger than 12 months. While lit­tle is known about the con­di­tion, fac­tors like putting a baby to sleep face down, or us­ing soft bed­ding, have been found to in­crease the risk of SIDS.

In re­sponse to preven­tion guide­lines warn­ing against putting in­fants to sleep with blan­kets, par­ents have been putting them to sleep in sleep­ing bags. These “bags” are sleeve­less sacks that cover the shoul­ders, con­tain­ing the rest of the body, with the arms out­side of the sack to pre­vent it from ris­ing over the head. “In­fant sleep­ing bags are used by many par­ents around the world but it is im­por­tant not to as­sume that pop­u­lar­ity is equiv­a­lent to safety,” said Alessan­dra Glover Wil­liams of Bri­tain’s Royal United Hos­pi­tals Bath.

Wil­liams and her col­league Fiona Fin­lay an­a­lysed four pre­vi­ous stud­ies of Aus­trian, Mon­go­lian, Dutch and English in­fants that ex­am­ined the im­pact of sleep­ing bags on risk of SIDS or SIDS risk fac­tors. They re­port- ed their find­ings in the jour­nal Archives of Dis­ease in Child­hood. “There are not many tri­als look­ing into in­fant sleep­ing bags and risk of SIDS but those avail­able are of high qual­ity,” Wil­liams said. Two of the stud­ies looked at the ef­fect of in­fant sleep­ing bags on the risk of SIDS. The other two con­sid­ered tem­per­a­ture reg­u­la­tion.

The Dutch study, pub­lished in 1998, found that cot­ton sleep­ing bags low­ered the risk of SIDS by 65 per cent and that ba­bies who wore them were less likely to turn prone or face-down. The English study found at first that sleep sacks did de­crease ba­bies’ risk of SIDS, while the Aus­trian study found that in­fants stayed just as warm when they slept in sleep sacks as when wrapped in blan­kets. The study in Mon­go­lian ba­bies found sim­i­lar body tem­per­a­tures in in­fants wear­ing sleep sacks or swad­dled.

The Lul­laby Trust, a Bri­tish char­ity that aims to pre­vent un­ex­pected deaths in in­fancy, rec­om­mends sleep­ing bags for ba­bies as a good al­ter­na­tive to blan­kets but does not specif­i­cally say they re­duce the chance of SIDS. “I think most UK par­ents are aware of SIDS,” said Dr Joanna Garstang of the Univer­sity of War­wick, who re­viewed the pa­per.

“Most (SIDS) deaths in the UK now oc­cur in so­cially de­prived fam­i­lies who strug­gle to en­gage with safe sleep mes­sages,” Garstang said. “Sadly, a very com­mon sce­nario is of a baby dy­ing co-sleep­ing with par­ents who have con­sumed sig­nif­i­cant amounts of al­co­hol or taken drugs.” “Sleep­ing bags are gen­er­ally used by higher in­come fam­i­lies who are any­way at the low­est risk of SIDS,” she adds.

Be­cause SIDS is rare, “it is hard to ac­cu­mu­late enough data to fully un­der­stand what fac­tors might come to­gether to cause (it),” said Dr David Sch­webel of the Univer­sity of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not in­volved in the study. Garstang said the main lim­i­ta­tion of the new anal­y­sis is that it lacked data, since there are very few pub­li­ca­tions about sleep­ing bags and SIDS. Dr Sch­webel agrees.

“The stud­ies re­viewed are ex­cel­lent, but there are few of them, and some of them (were small),” he said. “The over­all con­clu­sion is that there is some ev­i­dence these sleep­ing bags are safe when used prop­erly, and at least some ini­tial in­di­ca­tion they could help to pre­vent SIDS. But the ev­i­dence is pre­lim­i­nary right now, not de­fin­i­tive.”

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