UPMC Chautauqua WCA Focuses On Safe Sleep For Babies

Tammy Johnson, a registered nurse at UPMC Chautauqua WCA, demonstrates how to use a sleep sack. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

Safe sleeping practices for babies are as easy as ABC.

Under Cribs For Kids, a program out of Pittsburgh that helps provide safe infant sleep spaces for mothers who cannot afford them, the ABCs for safe sleep refer to alone, back is best and in an uncluttered crib.

On Wednesday, UPMC Chautauqua WCA Hospital staff held a lunchtime seminar regarding the ABCs of safe sleeping for infants and the use of sleep sacks or wearable blanket at the hospital.

Tammy Johnson, a registered nurse at the hospital, demonstrated how to appropriately use a sleep sack.

Johnson said the sleep sacks have replaced swaddling with blankets because it is safer.

“You always want them to sleep alone, not on the bed with you or on the couch with you,” she said. “Back is best for breathing until they are strong enough to pick their head up and turn it for prevention of suffocation and SIDS.”

UPMC Chautauqua WCA has partnered with the Cribs For Kids program, and was recently recognized as a “Gold Designated Certified Safe Sleep Program” in its National Safe Sleep Hospital Program due to their commitment to infant safe sleep.

The hospital has also been invested in educating parents and staff alike on the ABCs of safe sleep for infants.

Making sure best sleeping practices are followed can be helpful in preventing Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths or SUID. According to the New York State Department of Health, about 1,200 infants in New York state under 1 year old die each year. Many of the deaths are due to congenital abnormalities and birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight or disease. However, 7.5 percent of those deaths are referred to as SUIDs that are attributed to unsafe sleep practices or if no cause can be found, and labeled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

Donna Barber, OB Unit Director, said data from the Cribs For Kids program shows that sleeping on the back is best for babies.

“It’s a big safety issue,” she said. “If you think of the anatomy of the baby, the trachea is in front of the esophagus that goes down to the stomach.

“So, if the baby is laying on their back and they start to vomit, automatically, gravity pulls it downward so it goes back into the esophagus instead of into the trachea.”

Barber said that is one reason why sleeping on the back is best. She noted that data has shown that taking additional objects out of the crib such as toys or blankets has lowered suffocation risks. Not co-sleeping lowers that risk as well.

“There’s a big push on for safety of the infants to use the sleep sacks, and we’re starting them out with what they want them to do at home,” Barber said. “We model the behavior here, so that they see us doing the same thing so we’re not giving them mixed messages.”

For more information on safe sleeping or help getting safe sleep materials, visit www.cribsforkids.org.


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