The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


June 25, 2012

Safe sleep for your baby

Community Partners offers tips on safe sleeping habits

ANDERSON, Ind. — Every month, JoAnnne McDaniel meets with a new group of pregnant Madison County women and helps them discern fact from fiction when it comes to safe sleeping habits for their babies.

McDaniel, a safe sleep coordinator with Community Partners, offers the class every second Wednesday through Community Hospital and the Children’s Bureau Exchange Club Family Resource Center. The program is also held every month in Hancock, Tipton and Hamilton counties.

The purpose of the class is to educate soon-to-be parents and parents of infants on what are the best and safest sleeping conditions for their babies. The goal is to reduce the risk of asphyxiation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the latter being more prevalent in newborns up till 6 months of age.

People who complete the class will also receive a safety-approved portable crib, safe sleep sack, sheet and pacifier. McDaniel teaches them how to properly use all the items during the class.

In the June class two weeks ago, she had 21 participants, including mostly pregnant women, and a few soon-to-be fathers. One new mother brought her newborn.

McDaniel told the group that people often are inclined to touch a pregnant woman’s belly, typically without permission and sometimes without even knowing her.

“It’s the same when you have a baby,” she said. “People feel they have a license to tell you how to take care of your child. Sometimes it’s well-meaning, but you get mixed messages.”

McDaniel, though, wants to spread the right messages to future and new moms. She has been running the safe sleep program since it started three years ago. She has also been a Lamaze childbirth educator, worked in a hospital for 12 years and keeps up with the latest guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“My job is to give you information and, hopefully, you make the decisions that are safest for your baby,” she said.

McDaniel prefers for pregnant mothers to attend the class in their last trimester, when they are closest to giving birth and the information will be fresh in their minds.

“I understand the necessity of bonding, being skin to skin with baby, and breast feeding, but all of these things lead to mothers sleeping with their baby,” McDaniel told the group.

Those bonding routines are encouraged, but that closeness can lead to mothers wanting to keep their babies in their beds overnight, or to falling asleep on a couch with them.

“But those children who are at most risk of asphyxiation or have a higher risk of SIDS are those who sleep in an adult bed,” she said.

Babies need to sleep in their own area, and not right next to a person. They need space to breathe, and they shouldn’t be overheated with layers of clothing or an adult’s body heat.

And babies must sleep on their backs, not their fronts. SIDS rates went down by 50 percent when in the mid-1990s pediatrics guidelines began saying parents should place their babies on their backs, McDaniel said.

The concern that a child could choke in its sleep while on its back is a myth, McDaniel said.

“Babies can spit it up and spit out,” she said. “Airways are actually more protected when they are on their backs.”

Babies should also be woken up every three to four hours, even if, and especially, if they are sleeping for longer periods. This process is even more important during their first six months of life.

“Babies who are in a deep, deep sleep don’t wake up when they are hungry,” McDaniel said. “You don’t want them to sleep through the night. You need to wake them every four hours.”

Stephanie Hamilton, the only one there with a newborn, had questions about her now 3-week-old daughter, Serenity.

“Sometimes she will sleep four or five hours, and she will wake up and let me know she’s hungry,” she said. “But some times she has slept seven hours, and then lets me know she is hungry. Should I wake her up?”

McDaniel advised Hamilton that she would pat her daughter and rouse her in the fifth hour, and if she’s not hungry she can let her go back to sleep. But it is better to break up her long sleeping sessions so she doesn’t get into a deep sleep pattern.

Since taking the class two weeks ago, Hamilton said she has been patting her daughter to wake her briefly from her long slumbers. And she does put her to sleep on her back every time.

“She still sleeps four, or five, or six hours at a time. She’s still trying to figure out her sleep cycles,” Hamilton said. “I tap her on her feet or touch her cheek and she will respond. I make sure she is still breathing.”

Hamilton said she found out about the class through Community Hospital in Anderson, where she gave birth. She has also taken birthing and breast feeding classes through the hospital.

“I think these classes are excellent,” she said. “I’ve been with children all my life. But you learn a lot when they are your own. Everyone can benefit from some classes. We all don’t know how to do everything.”

Find Melanie D. Hayes on Facebook and @MelanieDHayes on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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