Is you child sleeping safely?

New data from the Minnesota Department show unsafe sleep environments account for nearly all unexpected infant deaths in Minnesota.

As part of last week's Infant Safe Sleep Week, the health department encouraged parents to know the “ABCs” of safe sleep as well as encouraging hospitals to become safe-sleep certified.

State health department analysis of the 90 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) in 2016 and 2017 found that 82 percent or 74 deaths were sleep-related and happened in unsafe sleep environments.

A key takeaway for parents and other caregivers is to know the ABCs of safe sleep:

  • Alone: Infants should always sleep or nap alone.

  • Back: Always put a baby on their back to sleep or nap.

  • Crib: Babies should always sleep or nap in their own safety-approved crib or play yard without blankets or pillows.

“We all need to work together – providers, parents and communities – to prevent these deaths,” said Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler. “We need to give all families the education and the financial and housing supports they need to create safe sleeping environments, such as a dedicated crib for infants.”

Health department analysis showed several notable risk factors involved in the 74 sleep-related deaths in 2016-2017. Among the findings:

  • 85 percent were not in a crib, bassinette, or side sleeper.

  • 81 percent had unsafe bedding or toys. Unsafe objects in sleep environment included pillow, comforter, thin blanket/flat sheet, cushion, U-shaped pillow (Boppy), sleep positioner, bumper pads or toy(s).

  • 61 percent of the babies were sharing a sleep surface, such as a bed, sofa or recliner, with another person.

  • 59 percent were in an unsafe sleep position, such as being placed on their side or belly rather than on their back.

The health department review of infant deaths found that soft items such as blankets, pillows, crib bumpers and toys in the crib pose a hazard, as does exposure to cigarette smoke. It is also important for the infant to sleep separately from other sleeping children and adults since research has found that keeping infants in bed with others is hazardous.

Health leaders pointed to one positive alternative – co-rooming, where the baby sleeps in their own safe crib, bassinette or play yard but is still nearby for breastfeeding and nighttime diaper changes. A safe sleeping environment is just as important during naptime as it is during nighttime sleeping, according to health officials.

Instead of using blankets to keep infants warm, parents are urged to dress babies in pajamas or other clothing appropriate for the temperature. As always, parents should talk with a doctor or nurse if they have questions or concerns.