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10/13/21blog post

"co-sleeping is dangerous and can be life threatening," emergency department nurse

guest blog from Elaine Markland, BSN, RN, CPEN

As an emergency department nurse at Dayton Children’s, I want every child we see to go home healthier than when they came through the hospital’s door. Unfortunately, babies who come to Dayton Children’s due to suffocation or strangulation related to unsafe sleep environments rarely make it home. These devastating, preventable injuries almost always lead to a tragic outcome for the family.

From 2016-2020 Dayton Children’s saw 38 babies die due to unsafe sleep and 60% of those infants were suffocated while sharing a bed or couch with an adult or child.

I know there is a lot of conflicting information about whether or not it is safe to co-sleep, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), bedsharing or co-sleeping is not recommended for any infants.

I know this sounds nearly impossible, especially after multiple nights with little to no sleep, but it could save your child’s life.

According to a 2019 study published by the AAP, “Safe infant sleep practices, especially those other than back sleep position, are suboptimal, with demographic and state-level differences indicating improvement opportunities.”

The bottom line­­-- co-sleeping is dangerous and can be life threatening."

While the first few months with a new baby can be challenging, I’d like to offer some tips that might make bedtime a little easier and safer:

  • Your child should always sleep alone, on their back, and in their own crib, bassinet or portable crib. 
  • Have your baby sleep in his/her own crib or bassinet in the same room as you for at least the first 6 months. 
  • When your baby needs to eat or have their diaper changed, be sure to get up and out of bed, and always breast/bottle feed while you are awake and alert. Put your child back to sleep in their own bed when you are done feeding or changing.
  • Try a swaddle sack. Make sure your baby is always on their back when swaddling, and once they can roll over independently, its time to stop swaddling. 
  • Offer a pacifier. Studies show that pacifiers can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If establishing a breastfeeding routine, wait a few weeks before offering the pacifier. 
  • If your child falls asleep in their car seat, swing, your arms or any other type of inclined surface, be sure to move them to their own flat, firm safe sleep surface. 

Finally, be sure to only refer to trusted sources of information about your newborn. Your OBGYN and pediatrician are great places to start. Here are the sources we trust at Dayton Children’s:

now I know my ABC’s... for safe sleep!

In late September, Dayton Children’s hosted some of our state legislators from the Ohio Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee as they toured the state to learn more about infant mortality.

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