Myths About Baby Sleep And SIDS

We need more training to get a driver’s license than to become a parent, in our culture. Even though we would benefit from parental education, some of us have never even held a newborn before having one of our own. And we often rely on advice from friends and family, much of it outdated or just plain wrong.

When it comes to baby sleep, bad advice can be dangerous. October is Safe Sleep Awareness month, an opportunity to learn more about sudden unexpected infant death and debunk the myths about what is sabotaging your sleep and highlight habits that potentially risk your baby’s safety.

Myth 1: Your baby sleeps best in a silent room

Not true. In fact, total silence can make it hard for your baby to doze off. Remember, the womb is noisy: louder than a vacuum cleaner and running 24 hours a day. For nine months, your little one’s been lulled to sleep by the rhythmic whooshing of the blood flowing through the placenta. To her, the quiet of the average home is jarring. Plus, in a silent room, she’s more likely to wake up when a loud truck on the street or any other bump in the night breaks that silence. The truth is your baby will sleep best if you play loud, rumbly white noise during all naps and nights.

Myth 2: You should never wake a sleeping baby

Nope. You should always wake your sleeping baby using a little technique called “wake and sleep.” It gently teaches your child the important skill of self-soothing. Here’s briefly how it works: Starting as early as the first day of life, wake him up the tiniest bit after sliding him into bed. Just tickle his neck or feet until his eyes drowsily open. Very soon after, he’ll drift right back into slumberland. In those few semi-awake seconds, he’s just soothed himself back to sleep — the first step toward sleeping through the night.

Myth 3: Some babies sleep worse when swaddled because they want to be free

Not really. Your baby may fuss and resist swaddling at first so it may look like she hates it. But babies don’t need freedom, they need the feeling of security they had in the womb. Without wrapping, your infant will flail her arms, whack herself in the face and startle easily throughout the night. That’s a recipe for poor sleep.

Swaddling is the first step to calming, and it’s important you don’t stop there, especially if your infant’s been fighting it. To help her settle, you’ll want to layer in other womb-mimicking steps: “shushing,” side/stomach position, swinging and sucking, which, along with swaddling, make up the 5 S’s of setting up a baby for sleep success. And once the S’s become part of your sleep routine, she’ll give up her battle! (Note: Side/stomach position is for calming only, never for sleep.)

Myth 4: We should teach babies to sleep in their own rooms

Having our babies grow up to be independent takes a long time. There’s no need to rush it. In fact, having your new child sleep in another room is inconvenient (for feedings and diaper changes) and possibly dangerous. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the parent’s room for at least six months (always on their back, in their own bed). The simple practice has shown to significantly reduce the rate of sudden infant death syndrome.

Myth 5: Swaddling should be stopped after two months

Swaddling reduces crying and increases sleep. But new research shows that swaddled babies who roll to the stomach have double the risk of SIDS compared with an unswaddled baby rolling over. As a result, the pediatrics academy is now recommending that parents stop baby-wrapping at 2 months. On the face of it, the group’s new advice seems to make sense, but it completely ignores the risks of not swaddling.

In an eight-year review of data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, only 22 sudden unexplained infant deaths related to swaddling were reported; almost 50% were in sleep sacks (a wearable blanket), and 90% were found in the stomach and/or with bulky bedding. (Note: Fatalities categorized as sudden unexplained infant death include sleep deaths from accidental suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.)

During those eight years, hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of babies were swaddled. Since sudden unexplained infant death strikes one in 1,200 babies, one would have expected hundreds or perhaps thousands of swaddle-related deaths over this period if wrapping caused these deaths. Of note, during the same eight years, 1,026 deaths related to sofa sleeping were reported to the safety commission.

The point is, though swaddling may introduce a theoretical risk, there is not a lot of proof it is causing a true increase in sudden unexplained infant death. On the other hand, swaddling has been shown to reduce infant crying and boost sleep. That is of critical importance because the stress provoked by persistent fussing and parental exhaustion is a potent trigger for postpartum depression, child abuse, car accidents and even risky sleeping practices, which are associated with up to 70% of all infant sleep fatalities.

We don’t want babies rolling over swaddled, but we also don’t want them rolling over unswaddled during the 2- to 4-month-old peak period for SIDS. An unswaddled baby can roll to an unsafe position more easily than one whose movement is restricted by snug swaddling. And, since swaddling improves sleep, unwrapped babies wake more often and are more likely to tempt their tired parents to fall asleep with them in their beds.

To solve this tricky problem, I assembled a team of MIT-trained engineers and renowned industrial designer Yves Behar to invent a type of swaddle that keeps sleeping babies safely on the back. In October 2016, my company Happiest Baby debuted Snoo, the world’s first responsive bassinet that employs this special swaddle, which clips to the base of the bed to prevent rolling. This innovation allows parents to reap the substantial benefits of swaddling for a full six months without any of the risks.

Myth 6: Putting babies to sleep on the back has solved SIDS

The National Institute of Health-led Back to Sleep campaign quickly reduced sleep deaths from 5,500 in 1994 to 3,500 in 1999. However, for the past 17 years, progress has completely stalled. The tragic truth is that 3,500 infants die during their sleep each and every year. Although more babies are sleeping on the back, the rate of accidental suffocation and strangulation infant deaths has quadrupled since the mid-1990s. What’s behind this alarming trend? Unsafe sleeping practices. Seventy percent of all sudden unexplained infant death victims are found in adult beds, sofas, and other risky locations.

A recent study revealed that while most parents fully plan to follow the ABCs of safe sleep (Alone, on the Back, in a Crib), less than half actually do it. And by the end of the night, about 60% of babies have migrated from their bassinet to their parents’ bed, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Lactation.

The terrible, unintended consequence of the Back to Sleep campaign is that it has worsened infant sleep. Babies just don’t sleep well on their backs in still, quiet cribs. And as discussed in myth 5, when babies don’t sleep well, parents resort to bed-sharing, which leads to many more infant suffocation deaths.

It is very important that parents continue to place their babies to sleep on the back, but they also need to start using more tools to improve their child’s sleep. The good news is that there are three effective ways to boost slumber for back-sleeping babies: sound, swaddling, and rocking.

Rumbly white noise is inexpensive and very effective for improving a baby’s sleep. Snug swaddling is too, but as explained above, pediatricians now recommend that parents stop wrapping at 2 months old. Motion, or swinging, is also great, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that sleeping in sitting devices, such as rockers and swings, may allow a baby’s head to roll forward and cause accidental suffocation and death.

These are issues we sought to address with the Snoo bed. It allows for safe swinging (it is totally flat), safe swaddling (the baby can’t roll over) and safe sound, as the sound increases when a baby cries but then immediately softens — after the baby calms — for all-night sleep promotion. We designed it to deliver the right level of womb-like stimulation that is right for any particular baby to calm his or her fussing and boost sleep.

For nearly 20 years, despite enormous public health educational programs, we have failed to reduce infant sleep death. But, by focusing on sleep efficacy (boosting a baby’s sleep), we now have a very exciting means to prevent many — if not most — of these deaths. And as a health bonus, improving sleep efficacy may also allow us to reduce other serious and unsolved health problems triggered by exhaustion and crying, such as postpartum depression (with about a half million cases diagnosed a year) and shaken-baby syndrome (1,300 incidents a year).

Scott Juceam is one of the leading advocates against Shaken Baby Syndrome. Scott’s life changed when his daughter Hannah was shaken to death by her nanny in 2006. Since then, Scott has dedicated his life to preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.

To learn more about me, please visit my website at or you can click here.

This article was originally published by CNN. Click here to read the original.

Titusville Daycare Worker Arrested For Shaking An Infant

A Titusville woman was arrested Saturday for allegedly abusing an infant in her care this summer, officials with the City of Titusville said.

Police responded to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children on Aug. 8 after hospital administration reported a possible case of child abuse to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Police said the baby was picked up from Dawn Michelle Garcia’s in-home unlicensed daycare facility before being taken to the hospital.

Garcia told the mother the baby was “super playful” and flipped over a toy at her home during the day. Investigators determined the 12-18 inch-tall toy was not one the infant would have the psychical ability to sit on or play with unassisted.

The infant’s mother told police when she picked up the baby began to vomit and “appeared ill,” according to the report. The mother took the baby to Parrish Medical Center, but the infant was flown to Arnold Palmer after a CT scan revealed the extent of the injuries.

The preliminary investigations show that the infant was suffering from abusive head trauma, also known as shaken baby syndrome.

Doctors wrote that the infant was “subjected to severe acceleration/deceleration forces from severe rotation of the child’s head during a shaking episode,” according to the arrest warrant.

It is still unknown what long-term injuries the baby will suffer from, according to the arrest affidavit. Doctors told the infant’s mother that follow up testing will determine if the baby will have permanent hearing loss because of the abuse.

Garcia, 47, is charged with aggravated child abuse and held on $25,000 bail in the Brevard County Jail.

A spokesperson from DCF told News 6 that the department responded to the home in August just after the incident and discovered there was an illegal home daycare being operated.

There was a cease and desist letter generated and executed. There is no record of Garcia being licensed as a child care provider with the department.

DCF also reminds families to check online to see if their daycare center is licensed.  Some Florida child care centers also earn a Gold Seal designation, reflecting quality in the level of care and supervision provided to children.

To search licensed child care providers and see inspection histories, click here.

Scott Juceam is one of the leading advocates against Shaken Baby Syndrome. Scott’s life changed when his daughter Hannah was shaken to death by her nanny in 2006. Since then, Scott has dedicated his life to preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.

To learn more about me, please visit my website at or you can click here.

Click here to read the original.

The History of Shaken Baby Syndrome

In March of 2014, a Yolo County jury returned with a verdict of not guilty on two charges involving the tragic death of a three-month-old baby. In this case, the father, Quentin Stone, was accused of shaking the baby to death and faced felony charges in connection with the baby’s death in September 2012.

The prosecution focused the jury on the serious injuries that their experts testified caused the death of the young baby. One by one, day after day, these experts would testify to what they saw in the X-rays, blood work, and what was found in the autopsy.

The prosecution’s case was based on the notion that the injuries were a direct result of shaking the baby violently on more than one occasion. However, the science of shaken baby syndrome has been called into question in recent years.

The key prosecution expert, Dr. Bennet Omalu, testified that there was no doubt that the baby died of a severe traumatic brain injury.

He would testify, “Sam’s injuries were not sustained from a fall. It was non-accidental. An infant’s motor abilities are very small and the injuries incurred would require a lot of mass and energy.”

However, Dr. John Plunkett, a critic of shaken-baby theory, would testify a few days later that it is was just as likely that Samuel’s injuries resulted from a fall from a three-foot-high bed onto the hardwood floor.

In his book that was just released, Mark Godsey, a former federal prosecutor who now works for the Ohio Innocence Project, writes, “For the past two decades, hundreds if not thousands of people in this country have been convicted based on a medical theory that we now know is invalid and can lead to wrongful convictions.

“This medical theory stated that if a dead or severely injured infant is reported to the hospital with three specific symptoms—bleeding in the retinas of the eyes, bleeding under the Dural matter of the brain (subdural hematoma), and brain swelling—then the baby had to have been shaken by a caretaker.

“Only intense shaking, the theory went, could cause those three symptoms to be present at the same time. So if a parent or a babysitter called 911 when an infant lost consciousness, and it was later determined that those three symptoms were present, whoever was caring for the infant at the time would be charged and likely convicted of murder (or assault if the baby lived) for allegedly shaking the baby.”

However, we now understand that “various conditions and illnesses can cause these three symptoms.

“Short falls” he said, “such as falling off a couch or diaper-changing table—can cause these symptoms as well in some circumstances.”

Radley Balko in a February 21, 2014, article writes, “For years, expert witnesses told jurors that if a deceased infant has a series of symptoms—bleeding at the back of the eye, bleeding in the protective area of the brain and brain swelling—then the child died from vigorous shaking. Typically, they’d state that the victim couldn’t have died from anything else.”

However, Professor Godsey writes that “many individuals charged with murder under this theory have been acquitted in recent years, if they have had the funds to pay for medical experts to dispute the prosecution’s experts espousing the shaken baby syndrome theory.”

That doesn’t mean that people have not caused infants deaths through shaking babies.  The problem is that the system is not well set up to deal with competing medical testimony.

“The science has shifted. In recent years, there has been a growing consensus among experts that the neurological symptoms once viewed as conclusive evidence of abuse may well have natural causes, and that old brain injuries can re-bleed upon little or no impact,” wrote Northwestern University Professor of Law Deborah Tuerkheimer. “Current science raises significant questions about the guilt of many caregivers convicted of shaking babies.”

The problem is, “Our legal system has been slow to absorb this new reality. As a consequence, innocent parents and caregivers remain incarcerated and, perhaps more inexplicably, prosecutions based solely on the ‘triad’ symptoms continue even to this day. The cautionary tale of Shaken Baby Syndrome shows that our system is too inclined to stay the course, and awful injustices can result.”

As Radley Balko put it, “Things get murkier when the question isn’t who committed the crime, but if a crime was committed at all.”

He notes, “The new research into SBS doesn’t state definitively that without external injuries, a child couldn’t have died from shaking. It suggests only that there are other possibilities—that shaking wasn’t the only possible cause of death. It isn’t an advance in science that will produce dispositive exonerations. It’s an advance that merely calls prior convictions into question.”

As he writes, “We haven’t yet found an adequate way to deal with that. DNA testing has forced the courts to admit when the criminal justice system definitely got it wrong. But the courts are much less likely to take action when new research suggests the system might have made an error.”

Mr. Balko concludes, “Now that we know that the criminal justice system is prone to error, perhaps it’s time to revisit the post-conviction emphasis on finality, particularly in cases decided on evidence that science later calls into doubt.”

By all measures, Quentin Stone is fortunate. The Yolo County Public Defenders’ office had the resources to pay for experts, and Monica Brushia and Martha Sequeira were able to get the jury narrowly to acquit. The science advanced far enough with our understanding of SBS for the defense to raise counter-evidence that was enough to produce reasonable doubt and acquittal.

But SBS is both a problem for the legal system in general and a cautionary tale about unproven scientific theories.

On November 4, Ms. Brushia will be at the Vanguard event to talk about the issue of shaken baby and this trial. Tickets are available here.

Click here to read the original version of this article.

Scott Juceam is one of the leading advocates against Shaken Baby Syndrome. Scott’s life changed when his daughter Hannah was shaken to death by her nanny in 2006. Since then, Scott has dedicated his life to preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.

To learn more about me, please visit my website at or you can click here.