Safe sleep education a priority for pediatricians

October 14, 2014

Pediatricians should make education about safe sleep a priority at all newborn and infant visits.

Pediatricians should make education about safe sleep a priority at all newborn and infant visits, advised Erich Batra, MD, at a session titled “Not just ‘back to sleep’: What you still don’t know about safe sleep for infants,” held on Sunday, October 12. He outlined changes pediatricians can make in their interaction with parents to promote safe sleeping practices.

Batra is assistant professor of family and community medicine at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, and medical director of the Pennsylvania Child Death Review program. The latter is part of a national program established to conduct a comprehensive, multidisciplinary review of child deaths, increase understanding of these deaths, and find ways to prevent them and improve child health and safety.

He noted that although the number of deaths from sudden infant death syndrome (defined as sudden death of an infant aged younger than 1 year that remains unexplained after a complete autopsy) have decreased dramatically since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 1992 that all babies should be placed on their backs to sleep and the Back to Sleep campaign was launched in 1994, sleep-related deaths remain the leading cause of death for infants aged between 1 month and 1 year. Unsafe sleep practices, such as bed sharing and unnecessary items in the bed, are prevalent and cause numerous infant deaths each year. These deaths occur more frequently in certain racial and ethnic groups.

It is critical, Batra stressed, for pediatricians to learn how to talk to parents about safe sleep practices. Parents should be educated about the ABCs of safe sleep: babies should sleep Alone (in the same room as the parent but not in the same bed); babies should sleep on their Back; and no loose blankets or pillows should be placed in the Crib.

Pediatricians should ensure that the newborn nursery is providing parents with accurate information about safe sleep and is modeling appropriate safe sleep guidelines. They should also advocate for safe sleep practices in their office, hospital, and community, he added.