Thursday, February 2, 2023

For Safe Sleep Awareness Month CHKD is reminding parents to follow the ABCs

(Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

There’s nothing easy about the crying, sleepless nights, diapers, and all that encompasses becoming a new parent to an infant.

That’s why health professionals at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters have simplified safe sleeping practices or measures that are in a new parents’ control and could prevent sleep-related infant deaths caused by accidental suffocation or strangulation.

Parents just have to follow the ABCs — Alone. On their backs. In a Crib.

“There are some things in pediatrics that are heartbreaking that we cannot change but this is something we can really make a great impact on,” said Dr. Suzanne Brixey, a general pediatrician at CHKD’s General Booth Pediatrics.

Babies in the first four months of life are at the highest risk, Brixey said, which is why new parents regularly hear about safe-sleeping practices at their baby’s check-up appointments, in maternity wards right after birth, and even throughout pregnancy at their obstetrician’s office.

During Safe Sleep Awareness Month, Brixey said it’s important to take the opportunity to bring parents, the community, and pediatricians together to talk about the issue with a significance that is sometimes overlooked.

“We have incredible evidence now that supports putting a child on their back to sleep for every sleep will dramatically reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and the rates for sudden infant death syndrome have plummeted just as a result of that single move,” she said.

Although rates of infant deaths with causes that couldn’t “be explained after a case investigation,” or SIDS, have decreased, 30 babies still died in 2018 from “sleep underlying cause of death” in Hampton Roads, Brixey said.

And, from 2008 to 2018 the Virginia Department of Health reported 277 infants died from sleep-related causes.

To move the issue forward, the hospital connects with its community partner, Sleeptight Hampton Roads, which travels the region ensuring hotels and other lodging businesses have the message about safe sleep and are providing appropriate portable travel cribs that comply with the standards.

The evidence shows putting babies to sleep on a firm crib mattress with no other bedding or soft objects, using an approved bedside sleeper, and breastfeeding also reduces the risk of SIDS or suffocation, Brixeys said.

Allowing a child to nap with a pacifier until about six months old also reduces the risk as long as it’s not attached to a stuffed animal or to the child’s clothes with any strings which could cause risks of choking or suffocation.

“Maternal smoking during pregnancy and smoke in the baby’s environment after birth remain major risk factors for SIDS so we work really closely with families to remove some of that exposure,” she said.

As medical professionals, Brixey said they understand raising an infant is both challenging and exhausting and aren’t judging when they ask questions for the purpose of helping parents do all they can to change habits that could lead to the devastating loss of an infant.

“We know it is difficult to be up at 3 a.m. trying to feed this baby and making sure you put them back in a safe place in the middle of the night,” she said. “We don’t want to scare families but really want to say we know this is tough but we have the resources and are here to help support you.”

Click here for more information about safe sleep and sleep-related infant deaths, and click here to learn how you can donate gently-loved and approved portable travel cribs to Sleeptight Hampton Roads.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

Related Articles