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Educating new parents about safe infant sleep practices is an ongoing effort for U.S. health care professionals as they strive to reduce the approximately 3,500 annual infant deaths attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
It’s no different at Passavant Area Hospital.
“Once the baby is born we talk about safe sleeping practices pretty much immediately and emphasize the importance of placing the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface like a bassinet,” said Simone Parlier, Passavant’s Family Maternity Suites’ nurse manager.
SIDS is the term used for the sudden unexplained death of a child under 1 year old.
Pillows and soft toys are not allowed in bassinets with babies at the hospital, Parlier said, noting that the practice should follow the child home, with cribs kept bare except for a fitted sheet.
Parents are encouraged to share a bedroom with their baby but not the same sleeping surface, she said. While studies have shown it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% to keep a baby in the same room as the parent, sleeping with the baby in the parents’ bed could lead to a hazardous situation, including suffocation.
Parents avoiding smoking, alcohol use and drug use around the baby also can decrease an infant’s risk of SIDS or suffocation, Parlier said.
According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, unsafe sleep is a leading cause of death for children 1-year-old or younger. In 2018, 143 infants in Illinois under the age of 1 died because of unsafe sleeping conditions. Of those, 27 were in the 17-county central Illinois region.
Of those 143 deaths, 114 of the children were found somewhere other than a crib, bassinet or pack-and-play; 102 were found in positions other than on their back; and 97 were co-sleeping with someone at the time of death.
“Every week DCFS is notified of babies who have died from unsafe sleeping environments,” said Marc D. Smith, acting director of DCFS. “These deaths are particularly tragic because they are preventable. These are our children. We are all responsible for making sure every parent across Illinois is aware of the danger to their child when they do not create a safe sleeping environment.”
A pamphlet and educational sheet are given to parents at Passavant, and education is provided throughout the patient’s stay and discharge.
“I would hope that all parents are aware of these safe sleep practices and what a safe sleeping environment looks like, because we provide that education here,” Parlier said. “I would hope all moms that come through our department and their significant other understand what that looks like.”