"Baby will only sleep on my chest." Learn about the dangers of it here.
What can you read in this article?
- Why letting a baby sleep on your chest is dangerous?
- What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?
All over social media, you'll find adorable photos of infants sleeping on their mother or father's chest. And while that fleeting moment is so heartwarming, that's all it has to be - fleeting. Just one for the cameras and not something that should be a habit especially when the parent has a tendency to fall asleep.
20-year-old dad Carmine Martino wasn't aware that after spending a perfect day with his family, it would suddenly end in tragedy.
What's alarming is that this could happen to any parent with an infant. And it serves as a heartbreaking reminder of why you should never let a baby sleep on your chest.
Why is it dangerous to let your baby sleep on your chest?
In November 2017, two-month-old Lucas John Martino had just spent the perfect day with his dad and mom Hayley Gavrilis. Lucas' parents were exhausted so they decided to get some rest.
After waking up, Hayley saw Carmine on the sofa and went to check their son in his basket. She started to panic after she saw that her son wasn't in his basket, so he woke Carmine up.
They were horrified to find little Lucas lying on the sofa, and despite their best efforts to revive him, he was declared dead after paramedics arrived.
What happened was that Carmine fell asleep with Lucas sleeping on his chest. But somehow, while he was sleeping, he accidentally suffocated his son which resulted in the infant's death.
The Parents Split Up Shortly After Their Child's Death
Shortly after Lucas' death, Carmine and Hayley separate, but they're still haunted by what happened to their beloved son.
"There was a lot of blame obviously – of course I blamed myself. Being a father, it’s my job to protect my family, my son and my girlfriend and I failed them. I was extremely angry with myself.
I’m trying to make progress every day. There’s no way to live with something like this and the images of performing CPR on him will haunt me forever."
Hayley said that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and up to this day continues to have panic attacks because of what happened.
"There are so many people out there who are not educated about this. That’s the scary part. If it happened to us then it could happen to so many other babies," she adds.
Baby will only sleep on my chest
Baby Lucas' tragic death was caused accidentally by his father who fell asleep with Lucas on his chest.
Sadly, this was not an isolated case. There were numerous reports of infants death where almost the same thing happened - the parent or the caregiver fell asleep while holding a sleeping baby on their chests.
Those tragedies could've been avoided simply by following the simple rule of not co-sleeping with your baby. The same rule applies to letting your baby sleep on your chest.
Holding your baby close to you, skin-to-skin is such a special bonding experience that it is highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for up to an hour after birth. This type of bonding can go beyond childbirth. It’s still considered safe with one exception—you must ALWAYS be awake.
The AAP warns that falling asleep while your baby is sleeping on you or while you're carrying your baby greatly increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Image from Pixabay
What is sudden infant death syndrome or?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is any new parent's biggest fear.
It refers to the sudden, unexpected death of an otherwise healthy baby. This usually happens when the baby is sleeping.
While its exact cause has not been identified, experts believe that a combination of physical and sleep-environmental factors can make an infant more vulnerable to SIDS.
According to AAP, here are some physical factors that can be associated with SIDS:
These causes are almost natural and the baby or other people giving him care has no control over them. However, the next factors rely heavily on the child's environment.
Sleep environmental factors
The items inside a baby's crib and his position while sleeping combined with physical problems can increase the risk of SIDS. Examples include:
Although sudden infant death syndrome can strike any infant, researchers have identified several factors that might increase a baby's risk.
According to studies, boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS. Infants are most vulnerable between their 2nd and 4th months. Family history also comes into play as babies who had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are also more at risk.
Again, being premature and having low birth weight increases the chances of SIDS, and finally, babies who live with smokers are also at a higher risk.
Meanwhile, during pregnancy, the mother affects her child's possibility to suffer from SIDS if she is younger than age 20, smokes, uses drugs or drinks alcohol, and has inadequate prenatal care.
Safe sleeping practices for baby
According to AAP, in the United States, almost 3,400 babies die in their sleep every year.
So in an effort to reduce those sleep-related infant deaths, they updated their policies and guidelines on their safe sleeping practices for infants. Here are some of them:
Babies below age 1 should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night.
Babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides. Because with the side sleeping position, there's the possibility of the baby rolling easily on their tummies.
- As mentioned earlier, newborns should be placed skin-to-skin with their mothers as soon after birth as possible, at least for the first hour. The dad can try this method too. Just make sure that when you are not doing skin-to-skin contact, place the baby back on her bassinet or crib where she can be safe.
- Rolling on their tummies. As a general rule, you should always place your baby to sleep on his back. However, some babies like rolling on their tummies while sleeping. If you think he is already comfortable rolling both ways (back to tummy, tummy to back), then you do not have to return your baby to the back. However, make sure to remove all items on his crib - blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, or bumper pads - so that your baby does not roll into any of them and block his airflow.
- If your baby happens to fall asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move him to a firm sleep surface on his back right away. Also, never lose sight of your sleeping baby when he is sleeping on a baby swing.
Use a firm sleep surface.
You should put the baby to sleep on a crib or bassinet that meets the safety standard along with a tight-fitting, firm mattress and fitted sheet designed for that particular product.
Avoid putting toys or pillows or other items on the crib. The mattress should be firm, and not cave in or bend when you put the baby on it.
According to AAP, putting your baby in the same room as yours during his first year helps reduce the risk of SIDS as much by 50 percent.
Place his baby's crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard in your bedroom, close to your bed where you can go to him easily. Room sharing will also make it easier for you to feed, comfort, and watch your baby at all times.
However, bed-sharing is not recommended.
Sharing a bed with your infant increases the possibility of SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation. Moreover, certain factors make bed-sharing even more dangerous. Never share a bed with your baby if
- He is younger than 4 months old.
- When he was born prematurely or with low birth weight.
- He suffers from secondhand smoke (you or any other person in the bed is a smoker, even if you do not smoke in bed).
- The mother smoked during the pregnancy
- You are taking medicines or drugs that might affect your consciousness and make it harder for you to wake up.
- When you consumed alcoholic drinks.
- You are not the baby's parent.
- When your bed's mattress or surface is soft, like a waterbed, old mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair.
- You couldn't do without soft bedding like pillows on the bed.
If you would bring your baby into your bed, it would just be to feed or comfort.
After breastfeeding or playing with your baby, put him back in his own sleep space when you are ready to go to sleep. If there is any possibility that you might fall asleep, make sure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets, or any other items that could cover his face, head, and neck, or overheat your baby.
Also, refrain from putting him on your chest if you have any thoughts of sleeping or closing your eyes. As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby back to his own bed.
As a general rule, your baby should be dressed with only one layer more than you are wearing. If you are worried about him getting cold, you can use infant sleep clothing, such as a wearable blanket or a swaddle.
To check if his clothes are too warm, put your hand on the back of his neck and check if it is warm or sweating. If it is, remove a layer of clothing.
Swaddling is a proven way to calm babies and help them sleep better. But if not done right, it might also increase the possibilities of suffocation and overheating.
Make sure the baby is on his back if you're going to swaddle him. Not too tight that it would make it hard for him to feel to breathe or move his hips and legs.
Make sure that the fabric is secure too and won't fall off because that might lead to suffocation. You'll know The swaddle should not be too tight or make it hard for the baby to breathe or move his or her hips. When your baby looks like he or she is trying to roll over, you should stop swaddling.
Places where the baby shouldn't sleep.
Do not let your child fall asleep on nursing pillows or pillow-like lounging pads because they might roll over onto their sides or stomachs and turn their heads into the soft fabric.
Also, never place your infant to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair. These places are extremely dangerous for babies to sleep in. They're just accidents waiting to happen.
Another important reminder for parents: if, for any reason, you think you might fall asleep when holding your baby, better put him back in his crib where he is safe. You may also ask someone else to watch the baby for you while you get some rest.
Image from Freepik
While co-sleeping is a good way to bond with your baby, it can be very dangerous. That's because sharing a bed can greatly increase the risk of SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome.
The best way for your child to sleep would be in their crib, without any pillows or blankets, so that they can avoid any risks of suffocation.
For moms and dads who still want to be with their children while sleeping, a good idea would be to sleep in the same room instead. You can place your little one's crib beside your bed so that they're still with you, but at the same time, you're reducing the risk of SIDS.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore
Additional information by Camille Eusebio
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