Many first-time parents could be at risk of making a serious mistake. After months of preparation, mom and dad often cannot wait to bring their new baby home for the very first time, place him or her in the crib, turn out the light and pray for sleep.

But first they need to take a few vital steps to help protect against sleep-related injuries and death, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the term used for the unexplained and sudden death of a baby younger than 1 year of age. On average, there are 3,500 sleep-related deaths among babies each year in the United States due to SIDS and other causes.

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, a serious issue that has impacted more than 450 families in Forsyth County the last 10 years. That’s why Novant Health is partnering with the Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition to launch the ABCs of Safe Sleep campaign, a program developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“To reduce the risk of SIDS in our community, it is important that we not only educate parents on the importance of safe sleep, but also make sure the baby’s entire care team understands how they can protect their loved one from harm,” said Pam Oliver, MD, executive vice president of Novant Health and president of Novant Health Physician Network.

What are the ABCs of safe sleep?

A is for Alone:

According to the AAP, babies should always sleep alone and in the same room as their caregiver, but not in the same bed.

Bed sleeping with a newborn is dangerous because it can result in accidental smothering. Room-sharing parents can always position the crib beside the bed to encourage bonding. The crib or bassinet should be empty with no loose bedding. To decrease the risk of suffocation, no toys, blankets, or bumpers should be in the crib.

B is for Back:

Babies should always sleep on their backs, not their side or stomach. This sleeping position has been shown to decrease the risk of choking, suffocation and SIDS.

Caregivers should also guard against "positional plagiocephaly," otherwise known as flat head. Babies’ skulls are very soft and bones can be affected by pressure. To avoid flat spots, babies should be rotated each night so that the top of their head faces the right side of the crib one night and the left side of the crib the next night. Supervised tummy time also helps with reducing flat spots.

C is for Crib:

Babies should always sleep in a crib or bassinet that meets current safety standards. The crib should be free of soft objects and loose bedding, and it should provide a firm sleep surface. Parents should also make sure that their baby’s room is smoke-free and avoid the use of sleep positioning devices.

A recent study confirmed that babies should not sleep unattended in their car seat, swing or bouncer. When these devices are used in place of a crib, infants are more likely to fall, flip and suffer from positional asphyxia.

Tiffany Martin, a physician assistant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center reiterated the point. “I have experienced firsthand the anguish parents go through at the loss of a child,” Martin said. “There is substantial evidence from around the world showing that sleeping your baby on their back for every sleep or nap significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. There is still a lot we don’t understand about SIDS, but by consistently doing the little things the right way, the risk can be significantly reduced.”

For more information about safe sleep, visit HelpOurBabies.org. For more tips about pregnancy, childbirth and children’s health, visit NovantHealth.org/healthy-headlines.

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