How Babies Need to Sleep

It seems just about everyone knows by now that babies need to be put on their backs to go to sleep. But if they're not in their own cribs, they're still in danger.

Unfortunately, four babies have died in Vanderburgh County in less than a year after being put in adult beds.

Nurse Susan Bonhotal says any crib made within the last 15 years is safe.

She says, "Years ago, they used to make cribs with large slats and what could happen was babies could get their bodies through the slats and hang themselves. That's when they came up with the bumper pad idea."

If you can't fit a coke can between the slats of your crib, it's safe, and you don't need bumper pads.

Bonhotal instructs, "Nothing in the crib but the baby: no pillows, no blankets, no comforters, no toys, nothing. We want to put the babies on their backs. Always put them on their backs. Now, a lot of people have questions about babies on their backs and spitting up. Actually, they're not going to choke. If they throw up or spit up on their backs because they have a natural reflex and that reflex is to turn their head."

But that doesn't mean you have to buy a wedge to keep them on their sides. They belong on their backs so much so that it's not uncommon for babies to develop flat spots on their heads.

She says, "What you can do to avoid that is when you put a baby in bed, turn their head to one side or the other. The other thing is tummy time, lots of tummy time when they're awake. Babies love to be on their tummies."

Some parents love the convenience of putting their babies in bed with them.

Bonhotal says, "...It's just so easy for an adult in the middle of the night to roll or roll back. And what's really sad is that babies, who have died of parents laying over on top of them, the mothers knew all about back to sleep. And they would comment, 'Well, the baby was on its back like it was supposed to be.' So we really need to stress just to keep the babies out of the adult beds."

Not having a crib is no excuse to put a baby in an adult bed. The Vanderburgh County Health Department can provide low-income parents with a new one for free. They pay for the new cribs with a grant from Toyota.

By age one, it's now safe for babies to sleep on their stomachs. Also, if they can turn over by themselves, parents don't have to get up every five minutes and turn them over. But always start them out on their backs.

For more information on safe sleep, pregnancy questions and local classes, visit the Southwestern Indiana Regional Perinatal Advisory Board's Web site.