“When you get home with baby, make sure you’re following the ABC’s of safe sleep for SIDS prevention. Alone, on their Back, in their Crib.” I have recited that sentence countless times in the last three years as an inpatient pediatric and postpartum nurse. I usually add to the easy-to-remember ABC’s a few other sound suggestions to decrease SIDS risk factors:
- No smoking around baby
- Share your room not your bed
- Firm mattress with a fitted sheet
- Sleep sacks until baby can roll over
- No toys/blankets in the sleep area
- Pacifiers are great
- And the most important rule of all: NO CO-SLEEPING IN THE SAME BED!!! (AKA bed-sharing)
These risk factors have been drilled into me, and we are audited frequently in the hospital to make absolutely certain we are doing everything we can to raise awareness and prevent SIDS.
If you have never heard of SIDS before, allow me to enlighten you. SIDS is an acronym for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Sometimes referred to as Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), it is the catch-all name for children under one year of age when an autopsy can find no other cause of death.
When I was pregnant, I set up the nursery and gave my husband a lengthy in-service on the Safe Sleep campaign and explained how we were going to (and were NOT going to) put our baby to sleep. Once our son was here, my idyllic nursery was torched after about 3 weeks, because, reality. I never knew how desperate one will get for sleep until I had a baby! After about three weeks, we had already resorted to putting him in the Mamaroo, tried the Pack n’ Play, moved the crib from the nursery to our room and back again, and we (gasp) co-slept.
The night my husband volunteered to sleep with our son I cried myself to sleep in the guest bedroom. I felt like I was being too cowardly to risk SIDS to sleep with my baby, and at the same time I was paranoid that he’d become another statistic. How could I live with myself if I walked into the room the next morning to find my innocent, helpless child not breathing?
I couldn’t plead ignorance, and I couldn’t stand letting my baby cry…I was stuck.
My husband’s rational candor was needed. He knew our son wasn’t going to sleep alone and suggested ways to make co-sleeping as safe as possible. After some convincing and discussion on appropriate modifications to ensure the safest possible sleep for our newest family member, I had relented in the name of sanity. When I say modifications, I mean that we placed the crib mattress between a wall and a full-size mattress on the floor in the living room. My husband had only a fitted sheet, and we had our son swaddled in a sleep sack on his own mattress. My husband laid his arm next to baby, and the pacifier was there to ensure oral stimulation.
It worked. Everyone got sleep, everyone was happier, and most importantly: we all lived. As soon as possible (around 6-8 weeks), we got him back into his crib and only had to co-sleep when he was sick.