April 22, 2014 – To provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) created a clinical practice guideline called, “Working with Families to Promote Safe Sleep” for infants 0-24 months of age.
“A lot of myths and misunderstandings about the best way to position a baby still exist, and we hope this guideline will lay the debate to rest,” said Elyse Maindonald, a nurse practitioner with the Windsor Family Health Team, who led the panel of experts that created the guideline.
Maindonald stated that the panel reviewed the evidence and concluded that the safest position for infants from 0 to 12 months of age to sleep is on their back. She added that cribs that meet Canadian Safety Standards (CSA) and bassinets and cradles with sides that allow airflow - are considered safe environments for babies.
Maindonald added, “Given what we know about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), we feel confident that putting a baby to sleep on his/her back along with other important considerations, such as not smoking and the importance of breastfeeding, greatly reduces risk.”
The RNAO guideline supports research that strongly encourages parents to avoid using blankets, pillows and other forms of sleep aids for their baby including positioning devices, head coverings and soft toys, which have the potential to block an infant’s airway. New parents may be tempted to choose from an abundance of cute and cuddly baby products but the guideline recommends a firm mattress with fitted sheets is all that is needed to provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Maindonald went on to say that many parents believe blankets and head coverings are necessary to keep a sleeping baby warm but evidence runs contrary to this suggestion.
“Infants over two months of age who are overheated are actually at an increased risk of SIDS,” said Maindonald.
The Guideline Development Leader, Dr. Monique Lloyd hopes that the guidelines will be embraced by nurses and health care organizations. “We want every nurse armed with the latest evidence about how to create as safe a sleep environment as possible so they can share this information with new parents,” says Lloyd.
The ‘Best Practice Guidelines Program’ was launched in 1999 to provide the best available evidence for patient care across a wide range of health care settings and is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The 50 guidelines that have been developed to date provide a tremendous contribution towards building excellence in Ontario’s health care system. The guidelines are available in several languages to nurses and other health care providers across Canada and abroad.
Registered Nurses Association of Ontario – contains downloadable files including:
- Working with Families to Promote Safe Sleep for Infants
- Guideline Search Strategy
- Toolkit: Implementation of Best Practice Guidelines, Second Edition