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FAQs: Common Baby Safety Questions

Posted by: Kate Published on: October 22, 2017

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I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. I write to Amber *all the time* to ask her baby safety questions. All the time. It’s amazing to have a safety guru on speed dial.

This week for the blog, we thought we’d share some of that awesome with you all. Below, you’ll find Amber’s answers to some of my most pressing safe-sleep questions. If you guys like this, let us know and we can turn into a regular series. Then it will be like you have a safety expert on call, too!

Q: Since it’s SIDS awareness month, we should probably start with a SIDS question. You’ve already explained what SIDS is and how to help reduce my baby’s risk. But, let’s cut to the chase – when can I stop  worrying about SIDS? (Read: how soon can I stop listening to my child breathe in her sleep?)

We have so much to worry about as parents!! After 12 months, SIDS is one thing you can cross off your list. SIDS is most common in babies 0-4 months. Beyond that, the risk starts to drop significantly. The science says that kids aren’t really out of the woods until after 1 year of age.

Q: Let’s talk swaddles. Babies love them. There was that research study awhile back that suggested they aren’t so safe. Then that study was kind of de-bunked. What’s a parent to do? How, if at all, can I swaddle my baby safely? For how long? (Please don’t take my swaddle away.)

Ah yes. The ‘Swaddling babies may increase SIDS risk’ headline grabber. The headlines should have read ‘Swaddling for side or tummy sleeping may increase risk of SIDS’. Swaddling, like many things, can be dangerous if used incorrectly. That is really what this study was pointing out – that side and tummy sleeping is dangerous for infants. It is even MORE dangerous if those infants are swaddled. Swaddling risk increases with the age of baby. The hypothesis is that older babies are more likely to be able to roll to their side or tummy while swaddled, but then can’t roll back. So, if you and your baby love the swaddle, by all means use it! But remember- baby must ALWAYS sleep on their back. And you’ve got to kick the swaddle when baby shows signs of rolling over, usually around 2-3 months.

Q: Moving right along the sleep-crutch continuum… What about pacifiers? How long is it safe for babies to use one? Are some kinds safer than others? (Really, please, please don’t take my pacifier away.)

Pacifiers rock! And this is one sleep crutch that is actually endorsed by the AAP. Scientists don’t know why pacifiers offer protection from SIDS. Some hypothesize it is because, in the event baby rolls to their tummy, the pacifier creates a pocket or space for baby to breathe. Kinda like a mini scuba regulator. Others think it is because it stimulates the sucking reflex and doesn’t allow baby to get into a deep sleep which, for some babies with an immature arousal reflex, could be trouble. Lactation consultants do worry a bit about the old ‘nipple confusion’ thing. I won’t open that Pandora’s box. Just know that babies are really good at one thing. Sucking. The AAP states that pacifiers should be avoided during initiation of breastfeeding (when your little bun is fresh out of the oven) and used only after breastfeeding is “well established”. I never liked that line because it is subjective. Basically, if your little champ is nursing up a storm, then feel free to offer a paci.

Q: I’m thinking about all of the places my three-month-old used to fall asleep: carseat, bouncy seat, baby carrier… I’m a huge fan of safe sleep, but what I am supposed to do when she falls asleep in one of these less than safe places? Do I have to pull the car over, take her out of the carseat and pop her Smitten out on the side of the road? What about the “never mess with a sleeping baby” rule???

This is where I run into the most difficulty when talking with parents. In an ideal world, babies would sleep in their own sleep space, flat on their backs, for every sleep. But this isn’t the ideal world. Babies fall asleep in all sorts of places and at the most inconvenient times. As parents, we can only do the best we can at that time. For babies falling asleep in the car- it can’t be helped most times. Make sure your baby is snuggly harnessed. The harness helps pull baby’s chest up and back to prevent a risk of positional asphyxia (when baby’s heavy head falls forward and cuts off their airway). Once home, if your’e a ninja, feel free to move your sleeping baby to a safe sleep space. If you’re like most parents, you are going to let a sleeping baby lie. One thing NOT to do is unbuckle baby thinking you are making them more comfortable. This creates a strangulation hazard. The times when you are out and about will be the hardest to adhere to safe sleep. However, when you are at home, try and resist the temptation of allowing baby to fall asleep in the bouncy chair, swing or any other space that isn’t safe. It is going to happen sometimes, it’s just inevitable. Do the best you can to limit those times.

Q: Ok, last one for today. What’s the number one thing you see parents doing that gives you the “that’s not safe!” willies? If you could wave a magic wand and correct one unsafe sleep choice, what would it be?

Can I pick two?? Unplanned bedsharing and the use of pillow-like sleep positioners (which are all the rage right now).

Unplanned bed sharing happens when you don’t think or plan to ever fall asleep with baby in your bed (or couch or recliner). But then real life happens and you find that feeding in bed is so much easier and so much more comfortable and you’ll put baby back as soon as she is done eatingandthenbeforeyouknowityouareasleep. When you don’t plan for the unexpected, you can’t reduce potential risk factors. Unplanned bed sharing means you probably will still have pillows all over the bed, you’ll have a fluffy comforter and it’s likely you will have a partner in bed too. All of these things increase the risk of death for baby. However, if you anticipate that you MIGHT fall asleep with your sweet little, you can remove those risks. Kick out the partner (sorry!), get rid of the comforter and pillows. The AAP is not endorsing bed sharing. But they are recognizing that parents are doing it, often unintentionally. They state sharing a sleep space with your little who is less than four months old, was born premature, or exposed to smoke carries increased risk of death. In addition, having soft bedding, a partner (this includes other children) in the same bed and if you are impaired in any way (drugs, alcohol or sleep depravation) also carried increased risk of death. Now that you know what behaviors are riskiest, you can avoid them.

Then those darn sleep positioners or ‘nests’. There have been numerous fatalities in products like these. Yet somehow parents keep wanting to use them. Regardless of what the marketers say, THEY ARE NOT SAFE. Many manufacturers will use terms like ‘breathable’. What they are referring to is an archaic British pillow standard from the 1970’s (yup). These products are fine for awake time. But never use them for naps or night time.

The Smitten Sleep System

portable bassinet

The Smitten makes safe sleep simple for families. Now, caregivers don’t have to choose – they can keep baby close by and also in a safe sleep space.