You’ve gone smoke-free for 9 months to protect your baby – don’t stop now! Exposure to second hand smoke by parents, grandparents, caregivers and others increases your baby’s risk of SIDS and other respiratory illness. New research also warns of the dangers of third hand smoke – the chemicals left behind on skin, hair, clothing, in homes and in cars. Always keep your baby in a smoke-free environment!
Caregivers: follow my lead! Ensure that anyone who cares for your baby understands the importance of providing consistency in your baby’s care. Babies whose routine suddenly changes, or they are put to sleep on their tummy or side for the first time, are at increased risk for SIDS. Provide everyone who cares for your baby with specific details on your rules for safe sleep, pacifier use, feeding, tummy time, etc.
Child care practices have changed a lot during the last 15 years, don’t assume that caregivers know how important the new recommendations are! This is especially important if you will be going back to work and your baby will be going to day care.
In response to recent concerns and publicity about an increase of “flat heads” in infants who sleep on their backs, First Candle provides the following information for your use in addressing this issue.
Experts agree that positional plagiocephaly, or a flat spot that develops on the back of a baby’s head, is rarely a serious condition and can be avoided if parents make a conscious effort to change the direction the baby’s head faces when the baby is on his or her back.
In the vast majority of cases, the problem usually resolves with time (by six months to one year of age) as the baby spends more time awake and begins to roll, sit and crawl. The use of helmets or surgery to correct this problem are rarely needed.
First Candle reiterates the importance of placing infants on their backs for sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, in an effort to allow parents and caregivers to be more proactive in preventing flat heads, we offer the following simple recommendations:
- Alternate the direction you place your baby to sleep in the crib.
- Move a mobile, mirror or other object of interest to the opposite side of the sleep or play area.
- Switch the arm with which you hold the baby, especially during feeding times.
- Place the car seat on opposite sides of the car.
- Limit the time your baby spends in infant carriers, car seats, swings and other similar products.
- Provide the baby with lots of supervised tummy time during the day when the baby is awake. This will not only enhance the shape of the head, but will strengthen the upper body muscles that are not used as much when babies sleep on their backs.
First Candle recommends that parents consult with their physician if they are concerned about a more abnormal flattening of the head to eliminate the possibility of a more serious condition such as torticollis (a tightening of the muscles of one side of the neck) or craniosynostosis (a very rare premature closing of the sutures of the skull).
Be sure that you don’t overheat your baby with too much clothing and/or bedding and keep room temperature at what would be comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. Overheating, or thermal stress, is considered a leading cause of SIDS.
Statistics show that SIDS deaths are more common during the winter months when parents may overbundle their babies in an effort to keep them warm. For sleep, use a wearable blanket or other type sleeper instead of blankets to keep your baby warm and safe.
When bringing baby in from the outside, remember to remove outwear and other coverings immediately and do not use blankets or other coverings as a weather or sun screen.