When I was looking for a day care for my young son, I read reviews on Yelp and looked at the photos for each place. I was shocked by how many professional licensed facilities had pictures of blankets and toys in baby cribs!
As a new parent, one of my biggest fears is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a term used to describe the sudden unexplained death of a child under age one. The experience of SIDS is tragic and heartbreaking for any family that goes through it.
Although much is still unknown about SIDS, many important risk factors are known, and by following the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, parents and caregivers can significantly decrease the risk that this tragedy happens in their own home.
Among the recommendations, for children under the age of one, the AAP says that babies should sleep on their backs with no soft objects or loose bedding in the crib. This means no blankets or stuffed animals.
This advice makes sense to me, given the way I have seen my own baby interact with blankets when we are together (putting them in his mouth or grabbing and pulling them over his head). Babies who are still learning motor skills are able to get themselves into situations that they cannot get out of, and objects in a bed can shift at night. These scenarios can lead to suffocation if a child gets stuck with their nose and mouth against a soft object.
Yet based on the photos I saw and the in-person visits I made to facilities, there are many child care professionals still ignoring this critical advice!
Even at the day care we ultimately selected, which has kind and caring staff and a nurturing environment, we were asked to provide a blanket for our son, who was just shy of four months old when he started attending. Instead, I wrote on all his forms that he wears a sleep sack (see examples here, here, and here) to stay warm during naps and should never be given a blanket or any other object in his crib. His caregivers respect our wishes, and we know our son is safer for it.
Although we took care to make sure our son was sleeping based on the AAP guidelines, I cannot help but continue to be bothered by the countless other children who are not benefitting from a safe sleep environment - both at home and when left with people who are supposed to be child care experts.
I sincerely hope that caregivers - especially employees of licensed day cares - receive more comprehensive training on the topic of safe sleep. Parents are trusting these facilities and professionals with their little ones.
Precious lives may be at stake.