Safe sleep environment for infants emphasized

In Louisiana, approximately 80 babies die each year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the broad medical term for sudden, unexplained deaths of infants before they reach their first birthdays. This October, as part of SIDS Awareness Month, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is encouraging families to create a safe sleeping space for their babies.

SIDS occurs when otherwise healthy babies die in their sleep for no apparent reason. While health professionals do not know what causes SIDS, there are a number of steps parents and caregivers can take to reduce a baby’s risk of SIDS. DHH’s Bureau of Family Health runs a SIDS Risk Reduction and Safe Sleep campaign to educate parents about the importance of safe sleep in lowering a baby’s SIDS risk.

According to Dr. Takeisha Davis, medical director for the DHH Office of Public Health, the biggest key to preventing SIDS is to create a safe sleeping environment.

Parents should never share a bed with their baby. Health officials have worked in the past several years to educate parents about the dangers of co-sleeping, which is when infants sleep in a bed or other location where others, adults and/or older children, are sleeping. This places the infant at a higher risk of suffocation or having his airway crushed when parents or other bedmates roll over on the baby. Co-sleeping babies have also been strangled between head boards and mattresses.

Because of the high risks, co-sleeping is not recommended for babies, and parents and caregivers should not fall asleep with an infant in their beds, or on a sofa or recliner.  Parents can bring an infant in bed with them for nursing or comforting, but should always put the baby back in his own crib or bassinet when the parents are ready to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a separate but nearby sleeping environment for babies, such as a separate crib in the parents’ bedroom.

In addition, babies should be placed on their backs, in their own cribs, with no excess bedding, pillows or toys in the bed due to risk of smothering.

It’s also important that parents quit smoking because babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to die of SIDS. Tobacco cessation is another important aspect of lowering a baby’s SIDS risk. Pregnant women, parents of babies under age one and their family members who wish to quit smoking or using other tobacco products can call the State’s tobacco cessation Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, to receive personalized counseling sessions from a  quit coach. More information about tobacco cessation resources is available at

Parents should also create a safe sleep environment in this separate sleeping area for their baby. DHH also recommends that families use a crib with a firm mattress that meets Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines; avoid using wedges or positioners, as these are not recommended for babies; dress babies in light clothing so he or she does not overheat; and keep the bedroom temperature comfortable as for a lightly clothed adult.

For more information on SIDS and how to create a safe sleep environment, visit

SIDS can occur in any family, regardless of race, ethnic background or socioeconomic level.

Babies with low birth weight (babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth) and/or premature birth (born at less than 37 weeks) are at higher risk.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH’s blog, Twitter account and Facebook.

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Posted by on Oct 16 2013. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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