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Back to Sleep - Safe to Sleep

The Back to Sleep Campaign was originally studied and started in the Netherlands in 1987, and was introduced in the United States in 1992 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in response to an increasing number of SIDS deaths.

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the sudden, unexplained death of a seemingly healthy child, less than one year of age.  It usually occurs during sleep. In 1990, 130 deaths per 100,000 live births were reported.

Prior to the introduction of Back to Sleep in the US, only about 13% of infants slept on their backs.  The majority of Infants were laid down to sleep on their stomachs.

  • FREQUENT CONCERN: Parents worried that their baby might choke, if placed on their back.  
  • FACT: Healthy babies naturally swallow or cough up fluids—it’s a reflex all people have. Babies might actually clear such fluids better when on their backs.

When I started practicing in 1993, not many parents were buying into the new “Back to Sleep” studies, but rather, they wanted to continue placing their infants on their stomachs for naps and night time.  In 1996 the AAP started a rigorous campaign with providers and the public, to try and change that habit. I met with resistance at first, but slowly parents began to listen, and to try it.  

After the Back to Sleep  program, more recently renamed the SAFE TO SLEEP program was started, the number of SIDS deaths has slowly decreased to only 38 deaths per 100,000.  Having babies sleep on their backs proved to make a BIG difference!  

Early in my practice I lost 3 infants in 5 years to SIDS.  That number is now 0 in the last 20 years!

  • PARENTS OFTEN WONDER:  What if my baby rolls onto their stomach on his or her own during sleep? Do I need to put my baby in the back sleep position again if this happens?

  • THE ANSWER: No. Rolling over is an important and natural part of your baby’s growth. Most babies start rolling over on their own around 4 to 6 months of age. If your baby rolls over on his or her own during sleep, you do not need to turn the baby over onto his or her back. The important thing is that the baby start off every sleep time on his or her back to reduce the risk of SIDS, and that there is no soft, loose bedding in the baby’s sleep area.

Recently the AAP started a Safe Crib Campaign as well, to hopefully further reduce the incidence of deaths.  

A “safe sleep environment” includes a firm sleep surface with a tight fitting sheet.  Avoid soft bedding, crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.  

Your baby can be kept warm with a fitted sleeper suit, or layers of clothing, but you do not want to keep them TOO WARM.  If they are sweating, remove layers!

Sleep environment and Safe to Sleep practices are very important to the health of your baby.  And remember, if your baby is sleeping well, you will too!!!!


Ginger Beecher CPNP a graduate of Emory University and herself a mom, spent 14 years practicing nursing in rural Georgia before moving to Northern Virginia.

Click HERE to learn more.

Posted: 11/12/2018 2:32:53 PM by Jenae Grader | with 0 comments

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