Thursday, September 27, 2012

Program Educates Parents Making It “Safe to Sleep” For Infants

TULSA, OK – Each year, there are approximately 14 sleep-related infant deaths in Tulsa County. And, with nearly 100 sleep-related infant deaths in Oklahoma annually, our state comes in second for this heartbreaking statistic. Sleep-related deaths – often caused by accidental suffocation or entrapment by a mattress or bedding material – are largely preventable.

In an effort to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) introduced the “Safe to Sleep” program in 2011. “Safe to Sleep” is an updated and expanded version of the NIH’s previous “Back to Sleep” program, which was introduced in 1994. While “Back to Sleep” focused on having infants sleep on their backs, the new program aims to educate parents and caregivers about several modifiable behaviors that can reduce the risk of sudden unexpected sleep-related deaths in infants.

To reduce risk of sudden unexpected sleep-related infant death, parents and caretakers can:

o   Always place baby on his back for sleep, whether it be at night or during the day for a nap.
o   Provide a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet. Never use pillows, quilts or other soft surfaces for bedding.
o   Keep items out of baby’s sleep area – pillows, pillow-like crib bumpers, quilts, toys and other items can be very dangerous to an infant.
o   Prohibit tobacco use around baby – while he is sleeping or awake.
o   Keep baby’s sleep area close to, but separate, from where others sleep. A bed, couch or arm chair are very dangerous places for babies to sleep. A crib, bassinet or bedside co-sleeper (infant bed that attaches to an adult bed) is recommended.
o   Don’t let baby overheat. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable to an adult.
As part of this national effort, the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center @ Hillcrest is proud to be Tulsa’s first hospital to have a Safe Sleep Policy in place. This policy requires all staff members to educate parents, and model, safe sleep behaviors in the hospital.

“Parents with healthy babies spend very little time in the hospital, so we are dedicated to making every interaction as informative and educational as possible,” said Lisa Owens, DO, a neonatologist with the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center at Hillcrest. “We talk to parents about their at-home sleep plan and take every opportunity to model appropriate sleep behaviors in our units. When you talk to a parent who has experienced the loss of a child from a sleep-related death, they often report not realizing a couch or a pillow could be deadly. We want to do everything we can to prevent another parent from such a devastating realization.”  

The Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center at Hillcrest is a boutique-style hospital dedicated solely to the health needs of women. To learn more about the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center, and its two locations at Hillcrest Medical Center and Hillcrest Hospital South, please visit

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