The stories of abused children haunted Dr. Dyann Daley.
She recalled one toddler, bleeding on the operating table, who had been kicked so hard that his liver ruptured. Daley, a pediatric anesthesiologist, promised herself she would take action to stop abuse of children. Daley would soon found the Cook Children’s Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment, which aims to provide education and support to families and training to healthcare providers and first responders to recognize signs of abuse and neglect. Until last month, she was the executive director.
Promoting safe sleep, which affects parents across the socioeconomic spectrum, has emerged as a major component of the center’s mission. The center is working with hospitals around Dallas and Fort Worth to adopt safe practices.
It’s a topic gaining attention around the world. News reports about the successful “baby box” program in Finland have prompted hospitals in several states to send new parents home with cardboard boxes for their newborns to sleep in. A Dallas native launched Baby Box Co. and began distributing the boxes in select locations around Texas in May.
“Parents of newborns are often worried about SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome,” Daley says. “But what they should be worried about is suffocation. Suffocation is the leading cause of injury-related death in infants, and it can be prevented.”
With summer baby showers and Father’s Day in mind this month, we sat down with Daley to find out what all dads and moms of newborns should know about protecting their precious bundles of joy as they slumber — and why they shouldn’t spend money to “cute up” the crib.
How do you define “safe” sleep?
The safest way for babies to sleep is alone, on their backs and in cribs. A crib is a catchall term for any bed with four sides. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first year.
New parents can become overwhelmed by all of the new gadgets. Any advice on how to wade through what they should purchase?
The only thing the baby’s bed should have is a firm mattress with a fitted sheet. That is it. No bumpers, toys, mobiles, blankets or pillows. Think of all the money parents will save.
Should parents swaddle their babies?
We prefer babies sleep in onesies or wearable blankets, as swaddling introduces risk to the sleeping environment. If parents must swaddle, they should stop by the time their babies turn 8 weeks old. At 8 weeks, babies can roll over, and the risk for suffocation increases.
We have all seen the sweet photos of a baby sleeping on Dad’s chest. What are your thoughts on sleeping on parents?
If the parent is awake, it’s OK. If the parent is asleep or at risk of falling asleep, that is a dangerous environment for the baby, especially during the first year of life.
What can fathers do to support mothers and safe sleep?
We want to encourage breastfeeding, so fathers can make sure mothers have snacks and drinks while they’re breastfeeding. Dad can sit with her while she is feeding the baby. He can even bring the baby to Mom, then take the baby back to bed.
Taking care of a newborn is exhausting, and in the interest of sleep, parents might bring their babies into bed with them or try some other environment that’s not as safe as a crib. Any advice for tired parents?
We often hear parents say their babies will only sleep a certain way, but babies will eventually sleep in a safe environment. The first six to eight weeks are exhausting. You are going to be tired. But the more tired you are, the more important it is that your baby be in a safe sleep environment because you are not likely to wake up and check on them.