Every new mom planning a nursery has seen the pictures on websites and in catalogs. Beautiful cribs, carved in sleigh-like curves, the rich wood dressed in cuddly sheets, filled with puffy quilted comforters, adorable pillows and fuzzy stuffed animals.
It’s the kind of stuff that makes a baby shower registry too scrumptious for words, but for Leigh Brown, a Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital health educator, it’s one of the confusing hurdles to making sure babies sleep as safely as possible.
The Pediatric Trauma Prevention Program is dedicated to keeping children healthy and safe through childhood, meaning sometimes Brown has to break the news that a dream nursery has nightmare potential.
“It’s confusing for parents because in the media you see these cribs that look all cute and soft and comfortable, when all you really need is a mattress with a tight-fitting sheet,” she said in a recent statement.
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The right sleep setup can help steer clear of something that can panic new parents — the mysterious specter of sudden infant death syndrome. SIDS is the third leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year old. The number has decreased in recent decades, but there are still no hard and fast answers to why it can happen. What Brown can tell caregivers is how to reduce the risk.
In addition to the somewhat austere, but far safer, crib setup of a simple mattress with no blankets or teddy bears, there is the method parents have been trained in over recent years, laying a baby on his back instead of that oh-so-cute curled-up-on-the-tummy position they seem to favor. Penn State Hershey pushes to make sure that parents ensure that other caregivers, like older baby sitters or grandparents who might have raised babies in a time when stomach sleeping was the norm, are schooled in how to put baby to bed.
Penn State Hershey also says that breast-feeding has been shown to decrease upper respiratory infections, which can also be a factor in SIDS. Other recommendations are to keep babies away from smoke, both during pregnancy and after birth, and not to allow them to get overheated.