Recently I’ve seen two hot topics in the news regarding infant sleep habits, which I will address separately in this post. I’d like to think that I’m a sleep guru; I’ve read and researched up the wazoo about all things sleep and sleep-safety and I feel like I have it nailed with my own kids and that I can give pretty decent advice when asked. All babies/kids are different and require different things, but I know the basics of sleep and what works, what doesn’t, and most importantly what’s safe. I find that the news tends to scare people and two issues have come up as of late.
Swaddling—Don’t Do It Anymore?
One is regarding a new recommendation from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario that say tightly wrapping (swaddling) infants may increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but other studies have shown no risk for SIDS. The nurse that CTV interviewed did state that literature supports that swaddling can be a factor in hip dysplasia—that I can get on board with as a potential risk of swaddling, however there’s no evidence that swaddling increases the risk of SIDS, it’s a “might”. The recommendations for teaching in Ontario hospitals are not to discourage parents from swaddling, but educating of the “risks”.
To me, as a nurse and a mom of two, I have to pick at the word tightly. That seemed to be emphasized in this news article—tightly wrapping infants in a swaddle. The nurse they interviewed stated that it decreases the infants ability to rouse as we want the swaddle to help soothe the baby to get the baby to sleep longer. Ummm….yeah! That’s one of the main reasons parents swaddle: to soothe baby to try to get them to sleep! I have this awful picture in my mind of someone shrink wrapping a baby in a swaddle blanket with just their faces visible to describe what they’re talking about, but I think common sense goes a long way in swaddling. They also talked about a swaddle potentially over-heating the baby which is a risk for SIDS, but there are awesome, breathable products that are safe (when used correctly, of course) on the market and here are some:
- HALO SleepSack 100% Cotton Swaddle
- aden + anais Classic Muslin Swaddling Blanket
- aden + anais Easy Swaddle Blanket
- Woombie Swaddle Blanket (PTPA Approved)
- Miracle Blanket Swaddling Blanket
- Summer Infant SwaddleMe Blanket
Sound Machines—Stop Using Them?
The other hot topic of present is the use of sound machines with sleep for infants. Global TV reported that a new study found that sleep machines may be harming your child’s speech and language development. As soon as I saw this in my Facebook feed I rolled my eyes thinking “great, just another thing for parents to worry about, and another thing that I’m ‘doing wrong’ as a parent myself!” I have used sound machines for both babies since day 1 at home. When we brought Braden home from the hospital we lived in the little 100 year old farm house and he had no actual room with doors, I knew that we would need a sound machine to blend in the noises of every day life. I have never believed in having a silent house when my babies are sleeping—I think they adapt really well with having normal noises as a part of naps and sleep time, but the sound machine really helps to blend those sounds together. However, Dr. Papsin disagrees with me by stating: “To have noise in the environment that disturbs your baby’s sleep, and then to put an added noise on to mask it doesn’t make much sense. You’re doubling the dose of actual energy, the sound, and that’s the part that could harm the baby”. When my babies were newborns I didn’t have a sound machine right next to their heads if they were sleeping in the living room. But, when they are in their rooms sleeping I found it necessary to blend in the noise that way.
The part of the study that is worrisome for hearing development in particular is:
Canadian doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children are warning that if parents are putting these white noise machines too close to the crib, and on a loud setting, the machines could be causing more harm than good to a baby’s ears.
In the study they tested 14 different infant sleep machines (ISMs) and all of them found that they were louder than 50 decibels, which is the safe sound level for infants, when placed at distances of 30 cm and 100 cm. They did also find that all of the ISMs had volume control and recommend placing them >200 cm away from baby. The study didn’t release what brand of sound machine(s) they tested (I wish they would) and it concludes that ISMs “may be safe” but they recommend that manufacturers make a policy and recommendations for safe use—which would be a great thing to do. I’m not condemning this study or this warning, I think it’s a good reminder of how to use a sound machine safely for baby. The study does recognize that a limitation of it was how loud the machines are, how long they’re used, and what type of noise the machine is making—and that’s one of the issues I have with it, it seems very vague at this point.
This Conair sound machine is the one I’ve used with my babies since day 1 at home. I love it because it stays on all the time (my personal choice to leave it on) and has an option for batteries for when we’re out camping or somewhere that doesn’t have electricity. I never crank the volume, some of the sound settings on this particular machine are very loud—absolutely! But I like to think of myself as a responsible young mom and it seemed like common sense to me to just turn down the volume and have the sound machine not right next to their heads and I feel comfortable with this practice.
That Part About Common Sense
I know there’s a lot of people in our world that lack some common sense and need a bit more guidance than others, but I urge you to put on your critical thinking caps when it comes to sleep safety and especially when it comes to reading the news. The Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths recommends these guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Smoke-free environment
- Back to sleep (place infants on their backs to sleep)
- Share a room, not a bed (have infants in same room but not the same bed)
- Practice safe sleep (more info here)
I know we all want what’s best for our babies, but we also have to do it with common sense, do what works best for us, and try not to live in a fear-filled world when we have so much to worry about as it is. I follow most of the SIDS sleep recommendations, but I do what works for me and my kids. I will continue to use an infant sleep/sound machine all night long and let my babies sleep with their blankies when they are old enough. They will never room-share with us (I don’t sleep a wink), and Braden had a pacifier—I’m not supposed to do that by SIDS risk-prevention standards. As I say with any parenting choice: we just have to do what works best for us and keep up with these recommendations on evidence-based research as best as we can.