For 20 years, parents have been advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics to put babies to sleep on their backs, to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It’s especially important for a baby born prematurely, whose SIDS risk is four times greater than that of a full-term baby.
Pre-term infants are routinely hospitalized, sometimes for months. During that time, nurses position babies on their sides and tummies for medical and developmental reasons.
The problem, says a researcher from Upstate’s College of Nursing, is that parents are liable to replicate practices they see in the hospital.
Sherri McMullen, PhD, an assistant professor of nursing, recommends the babies be transitioned to sleep on their backs before they are sent home “so that both the infant and parents are comfortable prior to discharge and use this position after discharge,” she wrote with a colleague in the journal Advances in Nursing Science.
“Twenty-four hours is not enough time before discharge for an infant to be transitioned to their back,” McMullen said. “Educating the parents about sleep safety and modeling correct practices for positioning the infant before the family leaves the hospital is essential.”
The researchers acknowledge that a balance must be found that allows enough time for the infant to become acclimated to the supine position without impacting neurodevelopment. They say hospital policies that promote a “back to sleep” transition can potentially help protect babies from SIDS after discharge.
This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.