Safer Sleep for Newborns with Sleep Sacks

In almost every newborn baby picture taken in a hospital, the baby is wrapped in a familiar white flannel blanket with a blue-and-pink stripe.

You won’t find babies swaddled in those blankets at Lexington Medical Center. Through the support of the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, the hospital has switched its standard blankets for HALO® SleepSacks to promote safer sleep for infants.

sleep-sackInfant sleep sacks, with fabric flaps that close securely and swaddle a baby’s arms to the body, are meant to make swaddling safer and easier. They help babies feel more secure and allow them to move their legs freely without the danger of loose fabric around their heads.

The change to sleep sacks at Lexington Medical Center is intended to help reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

“SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age, with most deaths occurring between the ages of 1 and 4 months, said Lauren Matthews, MD, a pediatrician at Lexington Pediatric Practice, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. “Approximately 2,500 infants die each year in the United States from SIDS. As the name implies, it is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant less than 1 year of age,” she said.

Lauren Matthews, MD

Lauren Matthews, MD

After the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) first recommended that babies be placed on their backs for the safest sleeping, SIDS rates declined dramatically – by more than 50 percent. In 2011, the AAP expanded its recommendation to include specific descriptions of an ideal sleep environment.

According to Dr. Matthews, infants should be put to sleep on a firm mattress without extra blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. Sleep sacks allow for warmth, swaddling and containment without the need for extra bedding in the crib.

“We know that parents are influenced not only by what they are told, but what they observe from caregivers in the hospital. Using sleep sacks in the hospital allows nurses and other medical professionals the opportunity to educate caregivers on the importance of safe sleep and model a safe-sleep environment. Education to reduce modifiable risk factors for SIDS is the most effective intervention currently available,” said Dr. Matthews.

Through the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, the hospital is able to provide free HALO SleepSacks for parents to take home, as well as provide them for hospital use.

In addition to using sleep sacks and placing infants on their backs for sleep, the AAP recommends parents avoid loose bedding, bumper pads and soft toys in cribs, which are linked to sudden unexpected infant death syndrome, or SUIDS. The organization also warns parents not to share a bed with their infants, especially at ages younger than 3 months, and not to use “co-sleeping” cribs, which have one open side pushed against the parent’s bed. Instead, parents should share a room — which studies have shown can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

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