Keep Your Baby Safe (Part 3) - 3 sleep products to skip

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Babies should never sleep on the couch

Liz Montgomery had recently returned from maternity leave to her teaching job in 2003 when she brought 5-month-old Mason to a trusted sitter’s house. Montgomery told her it was okay to put Mason to sleep on his back on the couch, which was how he often napped at home, with a blanket over him.

To this day, it’s not clear what happened to Mason during his nap. Within 15 minutes of putting him down, the sitter checked on him and found him not breathing. “I don’t know if he rolled into the couch cushions or if he overheated,” says Montgomery, who has never been able to bring herself to ask what position her son was in. After being airlifted to a major hospital, Mason was put on life support but showed no brain activity. After 24 hours, his family decided to remove life support. Although the medical examiner’s report said that Mason had died of SIDS, Montgomery began to research the dangers babies face when they sleep on a soft surface. She does not blame the sitter, who remains a close friend, but now she’ll tell everyone she can that the safest environment for a baby is in a crib. And in February 2012 she started the Inland Northwest SIDS Foundation in Idaho to provide education for parents.

Description: Liz Montgomery and her nieces honor Mason at a 2013 event

Liz Montgomery and her nieces honor Mason at a 2013 event

The AAP recommends that babies always sleep in a crib, a bassinet, or a play yard with a firm mattress. It’s okay if they fall asleep in a car seat while traveling, but Dr. Goodstein recommends they be taken out every one to two hours. Babies should never be put down to sleep in a car seat, though – even for a nap. “If a baby’s head tips forward, especially at a young age, it could partially block her airway and make it hard for her to breathe,” he explains. And couches, like adult beds, are too soft to be safe.

When you’re sleepy, it’s risky to breastfeed in bed

Description: When you’re sleepy, it’s risky to breastfeed in bed

When you’re sleepy, it’s risky to breastfeed in bed

The AAP notes that breastfeeding up to a year, even if the milk is pumped, can protect against SIDS. But that doesn’t mean moms should breastfeed in bed when they’re tired, even if being in bed makes nursing easier. Tammy Jones, of Columbus, Missouri, wants parents to know that bed sharing is never safe, even if a health professional suggests it. Already the mom of a 3-year-old daughter, Jones was a graduate student at the University of Missouri when she gave birth a few weeks early to twin girls, Whitney and Megan. A nurse recommended taking her 7-week-old babies to bed with her to help breastfeed through the night. Jones had been sleeping with her infants beside her when she was awakened one morning by her oldest daughter and realized something was wrong. Next to her in bed, Whitney was still, her face blue. Jones called 911 and performed CPR, trying to stay calm. “By the time the ambulance arrived, she was gone,” she says. “My heart wasn’t broken. It was shattered.”

An autopsy described the death as SIDS, known to be more prevalent in preemies. But as Tammy began to talk with doctors and to read studies about how sleep-related deaths tend to occur, she believed bed sharing played a role. In support groups, speaking engagements, and other advocacy work, she’s getting the word out about safe sleep for babies under 1 year old. “I didn’t know then that bed sharing was a danger,” Jones says. She hopes to spare other parents similar grief: “It’s the only way I could find meaning in such a senseless death.”

You’d never want to do anything to endanger your baby. Safe-sleep environments, experts urge, are as essential as car seats. “There are no exceptions,” says Dr. Moon. “We want every baby to be safe.”

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Description: All your baby needs is a bare crib with a firm mattress.

All your baby needs is a bare crib with a firm mattress.

Crib wedges, which are propped under the top of the mattress, are no longer recommended to help babies with reflux. According to the AAP, studies have not shown that elevating a baby’s head is beneficial. What’s more, a wedge may cause a baby to slide to the foot of a crib into an unsafe breathing position. “I’ve seen babies slide and roll down to the bottom of an incubator when it’s been elevated,” Dr. Michael Goodstein says.

Bumpers, even ones that wrap around individual bars and those advertised as being “breathable,” all pose a risk if a baby gets his face pressed against them. As a result of infant deaths, bumpers have been banned in Chicago and the state of Maryland. Baby recliners, which are similar to wedges in that they are intended to position babies relatively upright while sleeping, have been recalled for causing infant deaths when babies slid into an unsafe position. They should never be placed in cribs – babies have been found to have leaned over the side of the recliner and suffocated against a mattress. They should never be placed in beds, either, where parents may roll on top of them.

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