Goal to Prevent Infant Deaths, Thanks to Safe Sleep Program and Grant From the Saint Mary’s Foundation
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 150 infants die in our state each year as a result of unsafe sleeping environments. To curb this horrible statistic, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Birth Center staff has created a Safe Sleep Program that serves to educate new parents and provide materials that promote safe sleep techniques for infants born at the hospital, including gifting a brand new baby sleep sack to each newborn.
Safe sleep techniques refer to methods that have been proven to save babies’ lives. Such tactics as placing a baby in a crib of their own, on their backs, are considered safe sleep techniques. Babies also must not have blankets, pillows or toys in the bed.
“Our goal is to provide sleep sacks for every newborn at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other deaths that occur due to unsafe sleep practices,” said Kathy Knott, LPN, for Mercy Health Physician Partners Downtown OB/GYN office, who works closely with new parents and newborns. Within her role, Knott performs an initial obstetric appointment at the patients’ bedside in the hospital after delivery.
“I used to give each family a blanket to take home, but once I learned about sleep sacks, I knew that we had to make the change to promote safe sleep,” Knott said.
Changing to safe sleep techniques prompted the Mercy Health Birth Center staff to create a large- scale Safe Sleep Program. The Safe Sleep Program aims to educate parents on the importance of safe sleep and to model safe sleep techniques through the use of sleep sacks in the hospital, 100 percent of the time, so families can become more familiar with them. Whenever possible, after birth, each baby is wrapped in a sleep sack – not a swaddling blanket – by the nursing staff. These sleep sacks are provided free by the HALO company, but these hospital sleep sacks are only for use within the hospital.
As birth center nurses at Mercy Health encourage the home use of safe sleep practices, including the use of sleep sacks, they knew an additional step was needed to see that patients have access to these materials. Knott applied for a grant from the Saint Mary’s Foundation, whose funding has garnered 2,000 sleep sacks for babies. Now every infant born at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s will be given a sleep sack at no cost to them, protecting them from unsafe sleep practices.
In addition to the Safe Sleep Program, the Birth Center at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is on the journey to becoming a World Health Organization’s Baby-Friendly hospital, demonstrating the organization’s commitment to the wellbeing of all our patients from birth.
Safe Sleep Tips From Safe Kids Worldwide:
- Placing babies on their back is best for sleep.
- Babies should not sleep on beds, sofas, recliners, chairs, soft surfaces, bouncy chairs or baby swings. If this happens, make sure to return your baby to a safe sleep environment.
- Avoid stuffed animals, bumpers and all those cute accessories make a baby’s crib seem warm and cozy as they often do more harm than good. Soft bedding can block a baby’s airway during sleep.
- A firm mattress covered with a tight-fitting crib sheet is all you need for a baby.
- Learning CPR should be on top of the list of to-dos for parents.
- Avoid placing a crib, bed, high chair or playpen near windows, draperies, blinds, or wall-mounted decorative accessories with cords.
- Do not hang anything on or above a baby’s crib on a string or cord.
- Room-sharing is a safer option than having your baby sleep in bed with you. Place your baby’s crib, play yard or bassinet in your room for more convenient feeding and close contact.
- Remember to always return your baby to his or her own crib when you’re ready to go back to sleep. This is tough sometimes because parents are often more tired than the babies, but it is much safer.