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Baby Will Choke if He Sleeps on His Back. Myth or Fact?
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  • Knowing safe sleep practices for the baby makes a huge difference in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Yet, despite efforts to spread awareness and information about SIDS, however, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows many parents still don't practice sleep safety all the time.

    For the study, 3,297 American mothers with babies between 2 and 6 months old were surveyed about SIDS and safe sleep practices for infants. Overall, 77 percent reported that they “usually” placed their babies down to sleep on their backs -- it meant there were times they didn't do so. Only 49 percent reported that they always did. 

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    Though experts are still unsure of why the unexpected death of an otherwise healthy and normal baby during sleep occurs, various medical groups have agreed upon guidelines to help prevent it. It includes placing baby down to sleep on his back and never on his tummy or side. 

    “What was new and hadn't been explored before was this idea of what people intended to do versus what they actually do,” said Dr. Eve Colson, professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the study, CNN reported. “What we found was that people intended to put their baby on their back but didn't always do that.”

    So why didn’t they? The two main reasons, according to Dr. Colson, were parents felt their babies were more comfortable sleeping on their tummies, and the back sleeping position posed a choking hazard. 

    “Some worry that their baby will spit up and choke,” Dr. Goodstein, lead author of the study, told CBS News, but he explained, “there is no extra hazard from back-sleeping due to the anatomy of the airways.” Beliefs like this, he added, sometimes come from the people whom parents are close to, like grandparents, which point to the need for widespread education. 

    What other parents are reading

    To restate, here are a few crucial components of the safe sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to remind you. Spread awareness! Share them with whoever cares for your baby, relatives, and friends. 

    1. Place your baby to sleep on his back. “Back-sleeping is the safest position for all babies in the first year of life,” said Dr. Goodstein.
    2. Your baby's crib should only have a firm sleep mattress and a tight fitting sheeting. No pillows, crib bumpers or stuffed toys. These pose a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation and entrapment.
    3. Have baby sleep in your bedroom, but not in the same bed at least for the first six months. “Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent,” said the AAP.
    4. Avoid baby's exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

    Plus, remember that “parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous,” said Dr. Rachel Moon, chair of the task force that authored AAP's safe sleep recommendations. Infants are at heightened risk for SIDS between the ages 1 and 4 months but soft bedding poses dangers even past this age, said the AAP.  

    And if you swaddle your baby, it's best to discontinue once he reaches 2 months old, added Dr. Moon, as this is around the time infants start to roll on their own. As soon as you notice your baby starting to tip to his side, stop swaddling. 

    Added Dr. Moon, “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.”

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