Sorting out conflicting information about SIDS
Parents are often given conflicting information about how to put their newborn to bed — information that can prove lethal, a new study warns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ “back to sleep” campaign, started in 1992, has helped limit so-called sudden unexpected infant deaths in older babies, but newborns still are dying too often, according to the study, published Wednesday in The Journal of Pediatrics.
From 1995-2014, there were 8,869 sudden unexpected infant deaths in the United States — nearly a third of them in the first week.
“I don’t think people have recognized the risk of sudden unexpected infant death in early weeks and days of life,” said Joel Bass, the lead researcher on the study and chairman of the department of pediatrics at NewtonWellesley Hospital outside Boston.
Bass, the father of five, said the safest way for newborns to sleep is alone in a crib with no pillows, bumpers or decorations. And moms should sit up in hard chairs while breastfeeding or hand the baby to dad in the middle of the night to bottle feed with expressed milk or formula, Bass said.
“The danger to the baby is getting their face to a soft surface,” he said.
There’s no disagreement about that. But some strongly disagree with Bass and the American Academy of Pediatrics that parents shouldn’t share a bed with their child.
James McKenna, a biological anthropologist, said his own research suggests that breastfed babies are safest and have the best outcomes if they are allowed to sleep with their parents — what he calls “breastsleeping.”
Lying together helps the baby regulate its heart-rate, metabolism, blood pressure and temperature, he said.
Both parents and child won’ t sleep as deeply — but that’s good, said McKenna, who directs the mother-baby behavioral sleep lab at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Deep sleep is dangerous for newborns because it makes it harder for them to regulate their breathing and shift gears to wake up. Shallow sleep keeps parents attentive and less likely to roll over or smother their baby, he said.
Parents, he said, “have every right to become fully informed” about how to co-sleep safely, by keeping the child away from pillows, blankets and cracks between mattresses and headboards.
Jay Gordon, a pediatrician in private practice in Los Angeles, agrees with McKenna that a healthy, full-term baby is safer co-sleeping than sleeping alone.
It’s not realistic to tell mothers they need to sit up to breastfeed, said Gordon, who is on the professional advisory board for La Leche League, a breastfeeding advocacy organization.
Monique Satpute, a neonatologist at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore, is strongly opposed to cosleeping, which she says poses a significant risk. “Put the baby in a safe place to sleep, and you get your own rest as well,” Satpute said.
In a safe sleep environment, a baby is on its back on a firm sleep surface; and there are no crib bumpers, pillows, blankets, loose bedding, or toys in the sleep area. SAFE TO SLEEPR CAMPAIGN