Blankets have traditionally been used to keep newborns warm, but the baby experts at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital say they had to go in favor of a safer alternative. Three out of four babies born in Cedar Rapids are born at St. Luke's Birth Care Center. St. Luke's Hospital recently switched to using sleep sacks for all babies born at the Birth Care Center. St. Luke's Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) made the transition to using sleep sacks in 2006.
Bedding, stuffed toys and bumper pads in cribs can be suffocation hazards for babies, and even swaddled infants can wiggle out of their blankets or pull blankets into their faces so in a move to educate parents and bring about awareness of the dangers of blankets and other items in a crib the hospital made the switch to using sleep sacks only.
Sleep sacks zip up and have two "wings" on the side that wrap around the baby's arms. The change is intended to help reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. SIDS is the sudden death of an infant less than a year old that can't be explained after an investigation, including an autopsy, death scene examination and review of clinical history.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are about 4,200 sudden unexpected infant deaths per year in the United States-half are caused by SIDS. The most frequently reported causes are:
- SIDS-the leading cause of infant death from 1-12 months old.
- Cause is unknown or undetermined. A thorough investigation was not conducted or after the investigation the cause could not be determined or remained unknown.
- Sleep-related suffocation-the leading cause of infant injury death.
SIDS has declined dramatically since the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending in 1992 that babies be placed on their backs for safest sleeping, but sleep-related deaths from other causes such as suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia have increased, the academy said in its 2011 expanded guidelines for safe infant sleep and SIDS reduction.
"While parents are here at the hospital we want to educate them on the items that can be an unexpected danger to their baby," said Diane Seelau, UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital Birth Care Center director. "This is our way of teaching parents about safe sleep for infants and really modeling correct sleeping arrangements so when they go home they will hopefully replicate the environment."
The sleep sacks are for in-hospital use only at St. Luke's. But thanks to a small grant through the Linn County Safe Sleep task force patients are receiving a free sleep sack to take home with them during the month of May. According to the Linn County Safe Sleep Task Force, 87 babies died in 2010 and 2011 due to unsafe sleep practices. The Task Force was created in response to these deaths with the goal of creating awareness of safe sleep for infants.
Additionally the hospital has a crib set up, which shows new parents what a safe sleep environment looks like. A nurse also works with new parents on what safe sleep looks like. Here are some tips for safe infant sleep:
- Always place a baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night, to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Use a firm sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet, to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.
- Babies should not sleep in an adult bed, couch or chair alone, with a parent or anyone else.
- Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of the baby's sleep area.
- To reduce the risk of SIDS, do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around a baby.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS.
- Give babies a dry pacifier that is not attached to a string for naps and at night to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Do not let babies get too hot during sleep.
St. Luke's is providing sleep sacks for new infants while they are at the hospital, courtesy of HALO Innovations Inc. The company's founder Bill Schmid developed its HALO SleepSack wearable blanket after losing a child to SIDS, and the company provides the sleep sacks free to hospitals to promote safety.
Sleep sacks are also available in the St. Luke's gift shops (one at the main hospital and one in the Birthcare Center) for $12 and will also honor an additional $2 off coupon from the Halo manufacturer.