Parents of a newborn often stay as close to their child as possible, but area medical experts and county officials are pushing parents to remember their “ABCs.”
The Albany County Safe Sleeping Task Force’s latest initiative isn’t an exercise in remembering the alphabet, but rather another outreach effort cautioning parents and caretakers to not sleep in bed with an infant. The ABC slogan stands for “Alone on their Backs in a Crib,” which is recommend as the safest way for a baby to sleep at night. New signs with the slogan and public service announcements will be added to the county’s ongoing safe sleeping campaign.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy joined Task Force members on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Albany Medical Center to recognize National Baby Safety Month and proclaim the day as Safe Sleep Day in the county. The ABC slogan was also unveiled.
“We can try to educate before (parents) leave and have their new babies,” McCoy said. “It is just important that we let people know the safe sleeping habits.”
Albany Medical Center and St. Peter’s Hospital, along with other area hospitals, are including safe sleep information with discharge papers, McCoy said. The hope is parents will be better informed about best practices.
“When you got a brand new baby, you got 50,000 things on your mind, you want to go home and show everyone your bundle of joy,” McCoy said. “Now with the weather changing and the winter months coming, more people are going to be in tune to have their babies sleep in their bed for warmth.”
Kathy Marsch, interim chief nursing officer at St. Peter’s, said while parents always have their baby’s safety in mind, they might not know some “common practices” are dangerous. Marsch said the hospital educates parents on preventing sleeping death in childbirth preparation classes.
“All family members, babysitters, day care staff and anyone caring for infants need to be informed and alert to the risks,” Marsch said.
Gladys Carrión, commissioner of the state Office of Children and Family Services, said “decades of conflicting information” surrounding best practices for babies has led to an “unfortunate number” of infant deaths.
“These tragedies are not inevitable,” Carrión said. “They are preventable.”
County officials announced the formation of the Safe Sleeping Task Force in March, and said 12 infant deaths tied to unsafe sleeping conditions were reported in the county over the past three years. The deaths were primarily attributed to adults rolling onto an infant and smothering them while sharing a bed, according to county officials.
Since then, McCoy has received sporadic pushback through posts on his Facebook page from those who support co-sleeping. One person accused McCoy of running a “smear campaign” and argued the practice of “bed sharing” reduces the chance of sudden infant death syndrome.
The medical journal BMJ Open published a study in May led by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor Bob Carpenter that found newborns sharing a bed with a parent are five times more likely to suddenly die when compared to a baby sleeping in a cot.
“The current messages saying that bed sharing is dangerous only if you or your partner are smokers, have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs that make you drowsy, are very tired or the baby is premature or of low-birth weight are not effective because many of the bed sharing deaths involve these factors,” the study read. “Our findings suggest that professionals and the literature should take a more definite stand against bed sharing, especially for babies (less than) 3 months old.”
The study is the largest ever conducted and involved analyzing individual records of 1,472 SIDS cases and 4,679 controls from five major case-control studies. Approximately 88 percent of bed sharing deaths analyzed in the study could have prevented if the baby wasn’t sharing a bed, according to the authors.
Dr. David Clark, director of the Children’s Hospital at AMC, said bed sharing is “absolutely” dangerous.
“In the winter season it tends to tick up a bit more, because in the summer folks aren’t using the blankets and other sorts of things they are using in colder weather,” Clark said. “Particularly now we want to make sure the message gets out and reinforced.”
Since the county’s safe sleeping program started, there has not been any infant deaths from unsafe sleeping reported in the county, McCoy said on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t end because we have zero,” McCoy said. “We have to continue with that message out there so people are aware what can happen if you sleep with your baby.”