What's the Big Deal About Crib Bumpers (and other SIDS Risk Factors)?

With October being SIDS Awareness Month, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released a new recommendation for safe sleep practices for infants. The AAP states, "Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment." (http://www.aap.org/pressroom/sids.pdf)

KRDO Channel 13 in Colorado Springs, CO, asked to interview us to get SIDS America's opinion on the new recommendation. You can click here to watch the video: http://www.krdo.com/health/29521577/detail.html

Dr. Hannah Kinnney, with Children's Hospital Boston in Massachusetts, led the breakthrough study revealing in February 2010 a link between SIDS and low seratonin levels in babies. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. An infant with low levels of seratonin (and there is no way yet of detecting seratonin levels in live babies), if in a compromised situation (such as rebreathing carbon dioxide due to a bumper, blanket, stuffed animal, parent's body or pillow blocking oxygen from the airway), is not alerted to awaken and move to get oxygen. The baby dies in his/her sleep.

Our son Billy was five months old, healthy, rolling over, and weighing more than 20 pounds, when he died of SIDS. I had given him a small blanket when he awoke early that morning and still acted sleepy. He took the blankie and his pacifier and went back to sleep. I never would have imagined that small blanket could be a hazard. He was strong and could easily remove it from his face if it got up there. But about 90 minutes after giving him the pacifier and blanket, I walked into the most horrifying moment of my life, finding the blanket loosely over his face and Billy not responding to my desperate attempts to awaken him. 

Here's the deal. I'm afraid many parents and caretakers either are not aware of the recommendations for safe sleep practices or do not take these warnings seriously. I hear time after time after time - "My baby sleeps best with a blanket." "My baby needs to sleep with me." "I'm so tired that I pull my baby into bed with me to nurse and then fall asleep while nursing." "My baby needs something to snuggle to comfort her as she sleeps." I've even heard- "My baby actually pulls the blanket over his head TO sleep!"

Those are true comments about real babies. I certainly understand parents' reasonings, and I used to feel the same about some of them.  It is true that many babies do just fine with crib bumpers, blankets, co-sleeping, wedges, pillows, and/or stuffed animals. However, if you were told that there was a CHANCE that the bumper- or blanket- or pillow- or wedge- or stuffed animal in your child's crib could lead to your child's death, would you not remove it? I think any parent would. I certainly would not have given my Billy the blanket, had I known what I know now. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics is now making this recommendation to remove all crib bumpers. Your baby could be susceptible to SIDS, and there is currently no way of knowing for sure. Seratonin levels cannot yet be measured in live infants. Most babies who die of SIDS, in fact, are healthy, hearty, strong babies, like my Billy. I'd never have known that something was wrong with neurotransmitters in his brain that normally would have alerted him to instinctively turn or remove the blankie from his face.

If you are a parent, grandparent, or caretaker of an infant, please carefully heed the AAP's recommendation. Remove the crib bumpers from your child's crib. Yes, your baby might get his/her arm or leg stuck between the crib slats every once in a while. But I know you'd much rather risk a bump, bruise, or broken bone on your baby than the loss of his/her life.

A full list of SIDS Prevention Tips can be found on our website at http://sidsamerica.org/about-sids/sids-prevention-tips.

IF YOU ARE A GRIEVING PARENT who has lost your baby to SIDS, perhaps a crib bumper or blanket was involved. Perhaps you co-slept with your baby. Perhaps your baby was put on his/her tummy to sleep. Perhaps you didn't know about these potential hazards. Or perhaps you did. 

If any of the above is true, not only are you reeling from the devastation of your loss, but you might also be intensely struggling with guilt and/or shame. I know I did. It can consume you and prevent you from experiencing complete healing if you do not hear the truth of what God says about your involvement in your child's death. 

The truth is that God does not hold you responsible for your baby's death. In fact, He wants to assure you of the great mommy (daddy) that you are. Whatever the circumstances surrounding your child's death, the truth is that you would have done anything in your power to have prevented his/her death had you known there was a very real potential danger. Blankets and bumper pads are given to babies not out of a blatant disregard for safety, but because parents love their children and want them to be comfortable! Blankets have been given to babies for centuries with most children having no problem with them! Many babies are put to sleep on their tummies because parents are more concerned about reflux issues that could be dangerous if a baby were to choke while lying on his/her back.

We are not ultimately in control of life or death. Hannah attests to God's sovereignty in her prayer in 1 Samuel 2:6 where she declares, "The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up." The life of your baby did not end because you made a horrible, fatal mistake. Your child's life ended because our sovereign God, through whose hands all life sifts, allowed it.

And God is much less concerned with our actions and much more concerned with the intentions of our hearts. The intention of your heart, even if you may have disregarded SIDS prevention tips, was never for your child to die. The intention of a parent's heart is to provide safety and security, love and nourishment. And you do the best you can with what you know and have. You loved your child. In fact, your child most likely ONLY knew love from you.

I understand that my words cannot in themselves remove the guilt and pain that you may be feeling over your baby's death. Honestly, only God can do that. But I can testify that He has indeed done it for me. All I had to do was ask. The death of my son- and my confidence that I am not held responsible for his death- is settled in my heart. And peace has replaced the horrifying guilt that tormented me for months after my son's death. God can and will do that for you, too. 

If you are struggling with guilt over your child's death, and you desire to reach the place where peace replaces the burden of guilt and/or regret, please feel free to contact us for further support. This is a very sensitive issue that many parents don't want to discuss because of the shame they feel. But it is also an issue that can keep a parent from being able to move forward in their grief to finding hope and healing. We want to encourage and support you. We're here to walk with you through that process. You are not alone.

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