Experts urge parents to educate themselves about safe sleep practices for infants

According to, sudden infant death syndrome is the inexplicable death of a healthy baby who is less than a year old. SIDS usually occurs while sleeping.

“It is extremely important to practice safe sleeping habits for children to reduce their risk of SIDS,” said Emily Woodley, manager of the Jamestown Regional Medical Center Family BirthPlace. “I think we find out in life that prevention is key to many things.”

Jamestown Regional Medical Center in Jamestown, North Dakota has taught new parents tactics and practices to euthanize their newborns. Woodley has taught proper practices to parents of newborn babies for more than a decade.

Woodley said staff at the medical center educate newborn parents about safe sleep practices while they are in hospital and give them a booklet on postpartum “baby blues” after giving birth and caring for an infant.

In 2018, the North Dakota Department of Health named the medical center the first hospital to receive gold from the Cribs for Kids Safe Sleep program, which encourages hospitals to educate and model the safest sleeping practices for an infant.

Emily Woodley, director of Family BirthPlace at Jamestown Regional Medical Center, shares the right way to put a baby in a crib to sleep.  Woodley also spoke about the safety issues with cots.  John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Emily Woodley, director of Family BirthPlace at Jamestown Regional Medical Center, shares the right way to put a baby in a crib to sleep. Woodley also spoke about the safety issues with cots. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

The center also offers anytime anywhere training on YoMingo, a pregnancy app that provides access to valuable information, according to the Jamestown Regional Medical Center website. New YoMingo users can register on the website and get access to evidence-based education for new and expectant parents, information about an expectant mother’s arrival and whereabouts, community health resources, and a list of available courses and support groups and other tools.

Woodley said that any caretaker – babysitters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or older siblings – should know the best practices for getting a child to sleep.

“Probably the hardest part for parents is staying strong with caregivers … because they grew up in a different time,” she said. “Times have changed, things have changed. We want you to be able to do things to protect our children. “

New parents can be overwhelmed with a lot of information at once, and it’s nice to have nurses and the Family BirthPlace share information on how to properly get a baby to sleep, said Shannon Klatt. Klatt is the Director of Health Promotion and Certified Car Seat Technician in the Central Valley Health District of Jamestown and the mother of an infant.

“I learned a lot from the nurses at Jamestown Regional Medical Center,” she said. “It’s best to go back and have nothing in the cots, blankets or other items. Just the baby on her back in the cot. “

Woodley recommended that infants sleep on their backs up to 1 year of age

“Then the risk of SIDS goes down,” she said. “And in fact, the highest SIDS risk is from zero to four months.”

She said that infants usually begin to roll constantly around 4 to 5 months of age, that is, when they are in a sleeper or sleeping bag with no swaddles.

“If you always start by laying them on their backs when they turn around, that’s fine,” she said. “You have more head control. You will be able to free yourself from the unsafe situation. “

Even after a child is one year old, parents should still lay babies on their backs when they fall asleep, Woodley said.

“But by then the children are moving so much that many of them either run or stand in their cots,” she said.

What to do and not to do

Woodley said cots shouldn’t have bumpers because infants could get caught in them and strangle or suffocate. She said cribs with spindles should not be used.

“The spindles are too far apart and you can put your head in there,” she said. “All of these cribs have been recalled, but of course some people might have them.”

The medical center has pack-and-play cots that it makes available to parents who do not have a safe cot to sleep in.

“We’re offering this in partnership with the Central Valley Health District,” said Woodley. “We work with them and I can get cots from them if necessary.”

Fuzzy blankets shouldn’t be used because they can stand up over an infant’s mouth and suffocate the baby, she said. When sleeping, nothing should be on an infant’s head, as this can also get through the mouth and cause suffocation.

Jamestown Regional Medical Center gives each new parent a sleeping bag, which is a portable blanket and an alternative to keeping a child warm without using loose blankets in a cot. Woodley recommended sleeping bags from HALO, the founder of which lost his first newborn to SIDS. According to its website, HALO’s SleepSack portable sleeping bag replaces loose blankets in cots that could cover an infant’s face and impair breathing.

A baby doll is wrapped in a sleeping bag and safely placed in a cot to sleep.  John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

A baby doll is wrapped in a sleeping bag and safely placed in a cot to sleep. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

If an infant is in a sleeping bag and begins to roll, a caregiver should take the baby out, Woodley said.

She said that there should be no other items such as toys in the crib as toddlers should lie on their backs and have their own bedroom with a sleeping bag and nothing else. It is not recommended for infants to lie on their side or on their stomach when falling asleep, she said.

“Babies need tummy time during the day when they’re awake,” said Woodley. “This gives you some of your motor power, but you want to make sure the baby is always on its back to sleep.”

She said babies should always be placed on their backs when a caretaker is getting them to sleep.

“If the baby is turning on its own, it’s okay to leave,” she said. “When a baby starts to turn around, I would only put it in a sleeping bag, not a sleeping bag. Otherwise the sleeping bag will keep you nice and warm and that is a safe sleep for you. “

Woodley said breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS. She also said offering a pacifier to sleep on can help.

“You don’t have to force it in, but if a baby takes this and then falls out, it’s okay to leave that one item (the crib),” she said.

She also said you can’t sleep together – if the carers have a baby in the same bed as you. She said it is recommended that infants be in the same room as their parents, but in a different bedroom with a firm mattress.

“You think you won’t run over them, but people do,” she said. “We have soft, fluffy pillows and blankets and all of those things and that’s just not safe for babies.”

It’s okay to hold babies while they sleep because they’re wrapped up and in the presence of a caretaker, Woodley said.

“If you go to sleep alone, you should be back in your own room and on your back,” she said.

Having a fan that isn’t blowing directly on the child in the room also helps circulate the air and is known to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Smoking around a child increases the risk of SIDS from exposure to secondhand smoke, she said.

She said keeping babies healthy by taking them to appointments and getting vaccinations will also help reduce the risk of SIDS.

Safety in the car seat

Klatt said that children should face backwards in car seats because it is safest in a vehicle and protects their spinal cord, which is still very fragile.

“There isn’t necessarily a law that says they have to stay rear-facing for a specific amount of time, but every manufacturer usually has a policy for doing this,” she said. “So if you look up the instruction manual for a car seat, it’s generally two years, but we also recommend that parents hold their child backwards until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for the seat itself, as set by the manufacturer.”

Klatt said it is safe for a toddler to sleep in the car seat in a car, but it is not safe for the baby to sleep in the car seat when not in the vehicle.

“The reason for this is that a properly installed car seat in the car in a tilt position will ensure the baby can breathe, while when you take it out of the car the tilt may not be correct and choking can happen,” she said. “That is why it is very important that no baby sleeps in the car seat after it has got out of the vehicle.”

Woodley said babies should wear their normal clothes when strapped into a car seat.

“You should never put a toddler in a big snowsuit or large fluffy coat and pull them inside because the harness won’t be tight enough and it will be loose for it to pop out,” she said. “Another thing that is overlooked a lot is that the breast clip is not pulled high enough. It should be at armpit level and often left on the stomach, and if you have a car accident they just come out. “

Klatt said that all of the car seats available in any store are safe because they have gone through very extensive crash safety tests.

Central Valley Health has three car seat technicians and provides car seat safety checks and car seats to all those in need.

“Anyone who has a question about the safety of car seats, we are always there to answer any questions,” said Klatt. “We take calls. We make appointments. We’re pretty flexible for everyone. “

Woodley said the Jamestown Regional Medical Center has five to six car seat technicians who can answer questions about car seat safety. The Stutsman County Sheriff’s office also has a car seat technician who can perform a safety inspection.

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