700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

The ABC's of Safe Sleep

Sep 26, 2014
Safe Sleep Practices: Why babies don't choke on their backs.

Last fall, my husband and I welcomed our second baby girl into the world. While her birthday was one of the best days of our lives, it also brought a fresh list of worries. How did we know if she was eating enough? What if her big sister didn’t like her? How could we keep her safe when she was asleep?

The last question above is very important. Ohio has one of the highest infant death rates in the United States, and sleep-related deaths are the most common reason besides prematurity. Every week in Ohio, three babies die from sleep-related injuries — enough children to fill seven kindergarten classes every year.

Fortunately, we had heard about the “ABC’S of Safe Sleep” and used them to keep our daughter safe. They can be used to keep your baby safe too, so I wanted to share them with you.

A Stands for Alone. This means that your baby should sleep alone, in a separate space, for every sleep (naps and night-time). This space could be her crib, a Pack and Play, or a bassinet. Studies have shown that sharing a room with your baby can decrease her risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by half, so we made sure that our daughter slept in our bedroom (but not in our bed) with us for the first months of her life. However, a recent study showed that babies have an increased chance of dying if they share beds with their parents, so it is important to make sure your baby has her own place to sleep, preferably close to you.

B Stands for Back. Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all babies be put to sleep on their backs, not their stomachs or sides. This position has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths, because babies are less likely to suffocate on other objects or their own gases when they are on their backs. A common concern among parents is that babies will choke and aspirate if they are laid on their backs to sleep. The video below explains why this is not the case.

C Stands for Crib. As mentioned above, babies should sleep in their own cribs (or a safety-approved Pack and Play or bassinet). To prevent the risks of suffocation and death, the crib should have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet. There should be nothing else in the crib besides your baby, such as blankets, stuffed animals, toys, bumper pads, or pillows, because there is a chance that your baby could roll over and suffocate on these things. When it is cold outside, swaddling your baby during sleep is a safer option than loose blankets in her crib. The video below will show you how to swaddle your baby safely.

S Stands for Smoking.  Infants exposed to smoking, either while in the womb or after birth, have a higher risk of SIDS than infants who are not exposed. Pregnant women who smoke are advised to quit, and care should be taken to keep infants away from any smoke exposure after they are born. Doctors estimate that one-third of SIDS deaths could be prevented if no women smoked during their pregnancies. For more information how to quit smoking, call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Practicing the “ABC’S of Safe Sleep” has kept our daughter safe since she was born. If you use the ABC’S for your baby, she can stay safe too. Sweet dreams.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Jamie Macklin, MD
Adult Medicine and Hospital Pediatrics

Jamie Macklin, MD is an adult medicine and pediatric hospitalist, currently practicing at the The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests currently include quality improvement regarding safe sleep and breastfeeding education.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.