‘Back to sleep’ message reduces infant deaths

Mike DeDoncker

Tragedy that it is, families don’t want to talk about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Few know that better than Nancy Maruyama, executive director for education and community of Sudden Infant Death Services of Illinois, which is why she concentrates on a message of “safe sleep for baby.”

The central message to safe sleep for infants, Maruyama said, is summed up as “back to sleep, tummy to play.”

“Every time we put them down to sleep, we put them on their back,” said Maruyama, a nurse who lost a son to SIDS 23 years ago. “But when they’re awake, we need to hold them and play with them and love them and put them on their tummy to play. Supervised tummy time is what we need to have for proper growth and development.”

Maruyama said the back to sleep message has helped reduce deaths in Illinois from SIDS, the diagnosis in the death of an infant under younger than 1 that remains unexplained after a complete examination, by 68 percent since 1993. But the state is seeing an increase in accidental deaths caused by situations in which the baby is brought into bed with adults, or put to sleep on such things as sofas, airbeds, water beds or makeshift beds.

“In 1960, the U.S. ranked 12th in the world for infant mortality and by 2004 we ranked 29th,” she said. “Mortality rates show the health of the country and our health isn’t too good because our infant mortality rate is so high. So why is it so high after all these years of back-to-sleep education?

“Somewhere, we’re missing the boat about risk reduction-education and especially in safe-sleep situations for babies. We have to determine what is the most effective campaign.”

Maruyama said cribs manufactured after 1984 meet current safety standards and said other considerations should be that the crib is sturdy with sides that do not fall, a firm mattress that fits the crib with less than two fingers of space on each side, and a sheet properly fitted to the mattress.

She said the baby should be dressed appropriately so it can fall asleep with no blanket. She also said their should be no pillows, bumpers, toys or positioners in the crib.

“The crib, the mattress, the sheet and the baby,” Maruyama said. “That’s all we need for safe sleep.”

More information is available at www.sidsillinois.org.

Mike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 ormdedoncker@rrstar.com.