Back to Sleep

Myths and misconceptions have disrupted safe sleep practices in today’s world. Let’s take a look at some myths.

Myth: Cribs cause ‘crib death’ or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Cribs themselves do not cause SIDS, but features of the sleep environment, such as soft sleep surfaces, increase the risk. Although SIDS cannot be prevented, there are certain things that a caregiver can do or avoid to reduce the risks. Some of these ‘things’ include ensuring a safe sleep environment is utilized for every sleeping event in your baby’s life. Take a look at the picture below to see what a safe sleep environment looks like.

Myth: Babies who sleep on their backs will choke if they spit up or vomit during sleep.

Babies automatically cough up or swallow fluid that they spit up or vomit – it’s a reflex to keep the airway clear. Studies show no increase in the number of deaths from choking among babies who sleep on their backs. In fact, babies who sleep on their back might clear these fluids better because of the way the body is built. There is no strong evidence that belly versus back sleeping increases the risk of death due to choking, but there is STRONG evidence that babies who sleep on their backs are at a much lower risk for SIDS.

This includes babies diagnosed with GER (gastroesophageal reflux). GER in infancy starts at 2-3 weeks of age and peaks at 4-5 months in full term infants. Symptoms may begin sooner or last longer in preterm infants. GER is a typical part of growth and development because the esophagus is short and muscles at the bottom of the esophagus are short and not as strong – these will develop and grow as baby grows. After about six months, GER typically improves, especially when baby learns to sit up.

Placing your baby in a semi-inclined position does not make reflux better. In 2019, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play infant sleepers following reports of thirty infant deaths. Thirty?!?!? Death was associated with infants turning over while sleeping in these inclined sleepers leading to an increased risk of suffocation and strangulation.

Car seats, sitting devices, or any other devices that require you to strap your baby into (such as swings) are not safe sleeping environments. Sleep positioners and nests are not safe sleep environments either. If you look at the fine print on many of these manuals, these products are unregulated and there are no safety standards applied to them. If your child falls asleep in the car seat, it is highly recommended to immediately transfer your sleeping baby to a safe sleep environment.

So, say no to wedges and any device claiming to help with reflux. Elevating the head of a baby’s crib is not effective in reducing GER. Safe Sleep with GER

Myth: Shots, vaccines, immunizations and medicines cause SIDS.

Recent evidence suggests that vaccinations may have a protective effect against SIDS. Be sure to keep your child’s health care provider appointments and if you do not have a health care provider for your child, please reach out to us here at the Grayson County Health Center at 270-259-3141 for vaccinations.

Myth: SIDS can occur in babies at any age.

Risk of SIDS lasts until about one year of age, but peaks between one to four months of age. As baby begins to grow and muscles begin to strengthen, baby’s risk of SIDS decreases.

Myth: If parents sleep with their babies in the same bed, they will hear any problems and be able to prevent them from happening.

Co-sleeping is a huge NO-NO!!! SIDS occurs with no warning signs or symptoms and it is unlikely that a caregiver will hear any alarming cues. Co-sleeping increases the risk of suffocation. While co-sleeping is a big no-no, it is recommended to have baby sleep in their own safe sleep environment in the same room as the caregiver.

This is essentially important for nursing mothers. Nursing mothers should ensure that they exit their sleeping location and sit in a chair to stay awake during nursing. The risk of suffocation is greater as nursing mothers may be sleep deprived and easier to fall asleep.

Take a look at some safe sleep data in Kentucky from 2012 to 2016:

So, what are some ways to reduce the risk of SIDS??

1. Follow the ABC’s of Safe Sleep.

2. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by 35%.

3. Offer a pacifier when baby is sleeping. There is a connection between pacifier use and reducing the risk of SIDS. However, a pacifier may interfere with breastfeeding, so wait about 3-4 weeks before introducing a pacifier to breastfed babies. This will prevent them from getting confused.

4. Avoid smoking, alcohol and illegal substances during pregnancy. Do not let anyone smoke around your baby.

5. Dress your baby appropriately at sleep time and avoid letting your baby get too hot while they sleep.

6. Ensure your child gets timely check-ups and vaccinations.

7. Avoid using devices in the crib that monitor for SIDS. This is not appropriate for a safe sleep environment. Please note, there are exceptions and you should check with your health care provider if you have questions or concerns.

8. Avoid using products without sleep safety regulations for sleep environments. These may be used while your child is awake but it is recommended to transfer your child to a safe sleep environment when he/she falls asleep.

9. Make sure your baby gets at least 20 minutes of tummy time daily. This will help strengthen their muscles.

Grayson County Health Center


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