How parents can protect their baby from accidental suffocation

Often people think I’m the Founder of First Candle.  I’m not.  I’m just one of the nearly 80,000 parents whose babies have died from SIDS or accidental suffocation in the past 22 years.  I’m not the only person at First Candle who’s lost a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Our Director of Bereavement and Education Barb Himes lost her son Jake 38 years ago on Christmas Eve morning.  Since Barb’s son died we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of babies.  For those of you who are not familiar with First Candle we work every day to end SIDS and other sleep related infant deaths.  We also provide support to people like Barb and me who have experienced one of the worst tragedies any parent could imagine.

Our heart goes out to all of the victims of this weekend’s shootings but particularly the family of the woman in El Paso who died shielding her 2-month-old son.  We understand her determination to protect her baby.  She paid with her life.  As SIDS parents we had the same thoughts.  We would have given anything to have prevented our baby’s death – indeed given our own life.

First Candle had been in existence for many years before I came along and sadly, I’m sure it will be around for many years to come because we still have a long way to go until we end SIDS.  But my hope is that we can see a significant drop in preventable accidental suffocation deaths in the very near future.  Every parent would do anything to protect their baby and we want to be sure that everyone knows about the safe sleep guidelines that will prevent accidental suffocation.  They include:

  • Place baby on his/her back on a FIRM and FLAT surface for every nap time and bed time.  Babies should not sleep in a swing, car seat, bouncy or any other inclined device. (This includes not allowing baby to sleep on someone’s chest – even for a nap.)
  • Baby should be in the same room but not the same bed as his/her parent for up to a year.
  • Baby should always sleep in a safety-approved crib, bassinet or portable crib.
  • Nothing should be in the baby’s sleep area including blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, fluffy bumpers or loose items.  (Baby should not wear a hat when sleeping or napping.)
  • If possible, breastfeed your baby.  Breastfeeding, even for two months, reduces the risk of SIDS.  Once breastfeeding is established offer a pacifier.

Too often we hear from parents whose baby has died that they wish they had known about these recommendations. We want to be sure every family knows that following them is the best way to protect their baby. 

First Candle is a 501 (c)(3) committed to ending Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other sleep-related infant deaths while providing bereavement support services for families who have lost a baby.

Your donation will help support our Straight Talk for Infant Safe Sleep outreach work and our grief program.