Parenting: Preventing SIDS and Infant Sleep Safety

parentingages and stages

Amidst the sheer bliss of becoming a new parent, every new mommy or daddy has at least a twinge of constant, over-protective fear that one's newborn is in harm's way. In the first several weeks, parents gingerly handle the new bundle of joy with extra caution and care. They study the sleeping baby, watching the chest go up and down with every breath.

Then, the exhaustion settles in. It seeps through your bones and takes over every ounce of your body. It fogs the mind to the state of delirium, and if you were granted with a colicky baby like I was, you're willing to try almost anything for a moment's rest. You hear about SIDS and it never leaves the back of your mind, but older generations and other experienced parents tell you that they slept their babies on their tummies to ensure more sound rest. I reasoned with myself—SIDS is so rare and it could never happen to me. I didn't smoke during my pregnancy and had great prenatal care. I needed sleep. I caved.

In the early morning hour of August 7, 2009, I put my five month old son Brody back in his crib for what felt like the hundredth time during the night. Frustrated, I put him down on his tummy, in his beautifully adorn crib which was meticulously decorated with a picture-perfect bumper and crib set. When I went to check on him a few hours later, I found my son in the corner, on his belly, with his face completely up against the bumper. I frantically tried to breathe life back into his cold lips, refusing to accept what had just happened. It took making the call to my husband and a flood of paramedics, doctors and nurses, family and friends for me to realize that my nightmare was my reality. A huge piece of my heart stopped with Brody’s that day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) both recommend babies under the age of 12 months to be placed on their backs, in a crib, and on a firm mattress with only a tightly fitted sheet. The AAP encourages room-sharing (sleeping in the same room but on separate surfaces) in its policy statement regarding SIDS prevention, but it recommends against bed-sharing with infants. Since AAP's launch of the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1992, SIDS has declined by 50%.

As parents prepare and nest for their soon-to-be new bundle of joy, it's important to talk about Infant Sleep Safety and measures they will take to ensure the safest environment for their infant. It will help prevent desperate decisions made later as tired new parents if those important boundaries are set in stone prior to the birth of the child. As you prepare your home for your child, it's vital to do your homework and research the recommended standards for safe sleeping habits for your infant.  Remember when you put your infant to sleep, every single time counts.

I believe that Brody had a physiological deficiency which combined with the environmental risks that I put him in, they created the perfect storm which took him from us. I never thought it could happen to me. It did. And I'm learning to forgive myself.

What precautions do you take to ensure your baby sleeps safely?

Sunny King is a wife and mother of three children: one son in heaven, a toddler boy, and one on the way.  She resides in Warrenton, Virgina and is a children's photographer in the metro DC area.  Her profession allows her to share her story and information about Infant Sleep Safety with her clients.  Her husband Mike and she started a charitable organization, Playmates In Heaven Foundation, which raises funds to support a Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) research group at University of Virginia Research Hospital.  She hopes to spend her life continuing to write her late son's story and to prevent other parents from experiencing the pain of losing a child to SIDS.

Executive Director of the Playmates In Heaven Foundation

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