Alaska infants die each year in unsafe sleeping environments, yet many of those deaths are preventable.
With the help of a new wearable blanket, swaddling a newborn just got easier. It’s part of a program at Mat-Su Regional Hospital that wants to raise awareness about safe sleeping environments for infants.
The wearable blanket is a mix between a snuggie and swaddling, not as tight as swaddling but loose enough for comfort and safety while an infant sleeps.
“The wearable blankets address two very critical issues with babies,” said Patricia Smith, Director of the Family Birthing Center at Mat-Su Regional. “We find our babies sleep better in the wearable blanket.”
For generations, it’s been known as the baby burrito. But now, studies show that swaddling a baby too tight can take its toll on an infant.
“When I first started nursing, nurses were very proud of how tight they could swaddle a baby and that practice shouldn’t be happening,” said Smith.
Smith says old practices of swaddling can raise major infant health concerns.
“What we found was that [swaddling] wasn’t the safest sleep for the baby because with a tight swaddle, the baby’s arms across the chest impair the chest’s ability to expand easily,” said Smith.
And it gets worst -- over time, babies can also develop hip dysplasia, Smith said.
“The babies weren’t able to flex and extend their hips naturally,” Smith added.
That’s why Smith recommends the wearable blankets, tight enough like a swaddle but also loose enough for the infants' comfort.
“It’s about SIDS -- it’s about preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” said Smith.
In 1992, Smith said sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was reduced by 50 percent, but it’s a statistic that hasn’t moved since.
“I just know that what we do here is to role model for our parents the safest sleep possible for their baby, and hopefully will change that factor that we haven’t been able to change for almost 20 years,” said Smith.
In addition to the new wearable blankets, Smith recommends a list of things not to do to make sure your baby is sleeping safely.
“Babies should not sleep on pillows, not to sleep on soft blankets and not to sleep with bumper pads,” Smith also says stuffed toys and extra blankets in the crib are out of the question.
“It should be a firm mattress with a tight cover. Best practice should be a baby in a wearable blanket,” Smith suggests.
Smith claims that 2013 is the year to make big strides in rolling out safe sleeping programs to other hospitals in Alaska, with hopes to reduce that two-decade long statistic.