I can remember, when I was pregnant, reading everything I could get my hands on about every mother’s fear—sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). My mother, who followed the norms of her time when I was born, was surprised that my son’s crib was bare—no blankets, pillows, toys, or bumpers. He wore a sleep sack and was placed on his back to sleep until he began to roll over by himself.
To add to what I learned from my preparatory reading, the nurses at the hospital I gave birth in set a standard for how to care for my newborn—explaining the abovementioned safe sleep tips, and much more. After all, nurses are probably a mom’s first stop for this information, helping new mothers navigate the choppy waters of caring for their newborns.
This month’s Cultivating Quality article, “An Evidence-Based Infant Safe Sleep Program to Reduce Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths,” from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, describes a nurse-led community program begun after two infants were lost to sleep-related deaths following discharge from the hospital’s neonatal ICU (NICU).
To develop the program, an interdisciplinary team made up of nurses, a physician, an occupational therapist, and a respiratory therapist examined the literature on sleep-related deaths and safe sleep practices, consulted with colleagues from nearby NICUs, and conducted an audit of practices related to putting infants to sleep in the NICU. Some of the initiatives implemented through the program included making sleep sacks available for mothers to take home after discharge, developing a clinical practice guideline on safe sleep, and offering safe sleep classes to expectant mothers and caregivers in the community.
The program appears to have been successful. Random unit audits showed that NICU nurses followed safe sleep practices 90% of the time after implementation, compared with 20% before the initiative.
Some of the practices listed in the article are familiar to those involved in infant care: babies should sleep on their backs in an open crib, open cribs should be level and flat, and soft materials such as blankets and stuffed toys should not be placed in the crib. Others were new to me—for example, that hats can place an infant at risk for overheating and should not be used if the infant is normothermic. To read more on this program and the full safe sleep guidelines developed, click here.