October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month and the Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) continues their work to educate parents and caregivers about the risks associated with sudden infant death syndrome and how to keep infant children safe while sleeping.

The Ohio AAP, in partnership with the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, has been working over the past several years to implement a safe sleep campaign designed to raise awareness and provide education around the American Academy of Pediatrics’ updated safe sleep recommendations released in 2011. However, an August 2016 study published in Pediatrics found that although safe sleep messages have been emphasized for years, data suggests that parents are not strictly adhering to the guidance on safe sleep environments.

“There were 15 infant deaths between January and July of 2016 that were linked to unsafe sleep in Franklin County alone,” says Melissa Wervey Arnold, CEO of the Ohio AAP, in a release. “The Ohio AAP, along with our partners, is working hard to help infants sleep safer by sharing ways that parents can bond safely with their baby while still following the safe sleep recommendations.”

The Ohio AAP recommends following the ABC’s of Safe Sleep—babies should always be placed to sleep Alone, on their Back, in a Crib that is free from blankets, bumpers, pillows, and soft toys. Sleep sacks are a safe way to keep babies warm while sleeping.

In addition to the ABC’s of Safe Sleep, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing, not bed sharing. Parents are encouraged to set up a crib or a portable crib in their room, so that they can hear their baby and get to their baby easily for feedings, but the baby is not in the bed with them. In fact, room sharing has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS and is a means to help baby form healthy attachments early in life. Whereas babies who share a sleep surface have an increased risk of suffocation, strangulation and asphyxia, regardless of whether they are breast fed or bottle fed.

Healthy attachment can be created in many ways that don’t involve putting an infant at risk by sharing a sleep surface. These bonding opportunities include:

  • Skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo care during awake times
  • Breastfeeding
  • Reading to your baby
  • Singing to your baby
  • Talking to your baby
  • Smiling at your baby
  • Playing with your baby
  • Establishing routines around sleep times

“Keeping children safe every time they sleep is everyone’s responsibility not only during SIDS Awareness Month, but year-round,” says Kristen Rost, executive director of the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, the state’s sole public funding source dedicated to preventing abuse and neglect. “By working together to help educate parents about safe sleep for their children, we can make significant progress in reducing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.”

The Ohio AAP published a special edition of its quarterly journal, Ohio Pediatrics, in October for SIDS Awareness Month that highlights educational, advocacy and partnership opportunities for providers and parents to promote safe sleep. You can find this special edition, along with information and materials on safe sleep and Ohio AAP’s Safe Sleep Initiatives, at www.ohioaap.org/safesleep.