As a requirement of grant funding, we gather all of our Operation Safe Babies partners together twice a year. But we think of it as much more than a “requirement”. It truly is a special opportunity to get together and share success stories and challenges of not only the Operation Safe Babies program, but also of working with expecting mothers. It is a time where those of us involved are able to get support, share ideas, discuss research and trade resources. At our January meeting, we were packed with over 25 partners! Here are some of the things we shared with them:
When talking to mothers, think about saying this: “How often does baby sleep with you?” (Instead of, “Where does baby sleep?”) This allows for a more honest discussion. We know that moms are co-sleeping with their babies, and this provides us with a chance to talk through why it is not safe, rather than taking a more accusatory tone of “don’t do it”.
When caregivers ask, “Won’t my baby get cold?” use this response: “Baby should only have 1 more layer of clothing than an adult when sleeping, like a Halo Sleep Sack.” Caregivers should know a safe option (i.e. the Halo Sleep Sack) and that babies do not need to be bundled in blankets. They will overheat and be at an increased risk of SIDS.
When parents ask about swaddling, share this recommendation: Stop swaddling when a baby develops sufficient motor skills that would allow them to roll from their back to their stomach. (This could be as early as 3 months). Even when swaddled, babies must always be placed on their back.
We were also able to share data from a recent study done by the CDC: Vital Signs: Trends and Disparities in Infant Safe Sleep Practices – United States, 2009-2015
Among reporting mothers (PRAMS):
21.6% reported placing their infant to sleep in a nonsupine position
61.4% shared their bed with their infant
38.5% reported using soft bedding
Noted risk factors:
American Indian or Alaska Native mothers
Non-Hispanic Black mothers
Those under 20 and who have had less education
And we were also able to share with them the new Cribette that Cribs for Kids is providing as a safe sleep option. We had one on-site that partners could see in person and then we watched the following video that shows how to put one up and take it down:
This fall, SCAN of Northern Virginia is expanding its Operation Safe Babies program to include baby boxes and education through the Baby Box Co. and Baby Box University. We’ve explored the topic of baby boxes in the past, researched safe sleep and devoted much energy to our Operation Safe Babies program. And we know you have questions! Here we share some of the most common questions we’ve received so far. If you have others, please let us know.
1. You already distribute Pack-n-Plays through Operation Safe Babies. Why are you adding Baby Boxes to the mix? Carl Ayers, Director of the Division of Family Services at VDSS, noted at the Virginia Safe Sleep Launch event on August 23, 2017 that safe sleep related deaths are the leading cause of infant deaths, age 1 month to 1 year, in Virginia. For the past two years, SCAN—in partnership with over 12 local agencies—has given out over 700 pack-n-plays to low income families in need of a safe sleep environment for their baby in an effort to reduce this number. By becoming a Baby Box Co. distribution site, SCAN will be able to engage with even more parents, not only to share information on safe sleep and abusive head trauma, but also to connect them with the man other resources that SCAN offers parents.
2. Will Baby Boxes really make an impact?
The Back to Sleep campaign was launched in 1994 by the National Institute of Health. And even though we know that back to sleep is best and reduces the instances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) only 49% of mothers always put their babies on their back to sleep. This recent story underscores the continued need for more education: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/too-parents-still-put-babies-at-risk-of-sids/. In our opinion, this program is not all about the box, it is about engaging parents and caregivers and talking about safe sleep. Education is how we really create change.
3. Baby Boxes aren’t endorsed by the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, are they?
We understand that baby boxes are not fully endorsed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and that a safety approved crib should be the first choice for a parent when practicing safe sleep. But a traditional crib simply is not a viable option for many families in our community. There was a lot of discussion back and forth between SCAN and the Baby Box Co. We feel that our decision is an educated one and supports the overall mission of SCAN as well as Operation Safe Babies. SCAN sees this opportunity to spread our safe sleep and abusive head trauma messaging to a much larger population of new parents that we may not have otherwise been able to serve.
4. Who else is distributing Baby Boxes in Northern Virginia?
SCAN is currently the only organization working with the Virginia Department of Social Services in our region. We hope more agencies will be doing so soon, and will keep you updated! In addition to Virginia, other states who have launched a Baby Box initiative include Alabama, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.
5. What comes in a Baby Box?
Each Baby Box includes a fitted baby mattress, fitted sheet, waterproof mattress cover and various newborn supplies, as well as our own Operation Safe Babies materials and educational tools.
6. How do parents get a box? How do they know how to use one safely?
Expecting parents can go to www.babyboxuniversity.com and participate in an interactive educational training designed to make sure they know about safe sleep, breast feeding, how to use the baby box, and other important health and developmental information. After successfully taking a quiz at the end of the online training, expecting parents in Northern Virginia will receive a certificate, which they can bring to SCAN to receive one Baby Box filled with a few goodies for baby. When they pick up their box, a SCAN volunteer will go through a checklist of guidelines to confirm they understand safe use. SCAN is distributing boxes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.
If you are interested in learning more about Operation Safe Babies or would like to volunteer with the program, please contact Moneka Lyons, Public Education Outreach Coordinator at mlyons(at)scanva.org.
One of the challenges parents face is the seemingly ever-changing list of recommendations and guidelines they hear about keeping their children safe. We often work with parents who are confused about new suggestions they hear about on the news, in magazines or from friends and relatives.
When it comes to sleep, we know there are some things – like placing a baby on his or her back – that are critical for providing the safest environment possible. (Our Operation Safe Babies program focuses on educating parents about these guidelines.) When the APP (American Academy of Pediactrics) recently announced new recommendations about where a baby should sleep—in a separate safety approved cribt in the room with mom for the first year —we had parents asking lots of new questions!
So, we recorded a new Parenting Todayradio show with our friends at iHeartRadio on the topic, and we updated tools on our Parent Resource Center app (here) to help.
SCAN is pleased to be partnering with Smart Beginnings Prince William County to offer valuable Workshops on Safe Sleep to the Greater Prince William community. The first workshop will be offered on Tuesday, February 21st at 4 pm at the Hylton Education Center at Sentara Hospital.
The FREE workshop is ideal for service providers, health care providers, parents, expecting parents, caregivers, childcare providers and anyone interested in helping spread awareness and information about safe sleep.
Tracy Leonard, SCAN’s Public Education Manager, will present the workshops using materials and information we have compiled through our Operation Safe Babies Program. Those attending will:
Since launching our Operation Safe Babies program last year, we’ve provided safe, portable cribs to more than 325 parents across Northern Virginia. We’ve also answered hundreds of their questions about how to make sleep safe for their babies.
October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month, the perfect time to share some of the most common questions we receive and some of the best answers we’ve found in our work:
Q: Why should I put my baby on her back to sleep?
A: (From the NIH Safe to Sleep Campaign) Research shows that the back sleep position is the safest for babies. The back sleep position carries the lowest risk of SIDS. Research also shows that babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to get fevers, stuffy noses, and ear infections. The back sleep position makes it easier for babies to look around the room and to move their arms and legs.
Remember: Babies sleep safest on their backs, and every sleep time counts!
Q: I’ve heard co-sleeping can be good for my fussy baby. Is it safe?
A:(From Cribs for Kids) The act of bringing an infant into a sleep environment with adults, other children, or pets puts the baby in danger of suffocating, either by being smothered in bedding; by positional asphyxia, which occurs when a baby’s position prevents them person from breathing adequately; or by being accidentally rolled over by a sleeping companion (overlay).
EXTRA TOOL: An opinion piece in the LA Times this September was met with powerful responses from the medical community, including this letter from the President of the AAP reposted online by Cribs for Kids:
To the editor: The risks of sharing your bed with your infant are not “imaginary,” contrary to the opinion expressed by Robert LeVine and Sarah LeVine.
An adult bed poses very real risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), unintentional suffocation, strangulation or entrapment to an infant. Sleep-related infant deaths claim more babies between 1 month and 1 year of age than any other cause.
The safest place for an infant to sleep is in a separate crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet and nothing else, preferably in the parents’ bedroom for up to a year.
Benard Dreyer, MD, Elk Grove Village, Ill. The writer is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Q: How can I make sure other caregivers are careful when putting my baby to sleep?
A: SCAN developed a “Pledge Card” in English and Spanish. We encourage parents to make copies for babysitters, family members and other caregivers to sign and hang up as a reminder for the children in their care.
Q: What does a “safe sleep” environment look like?
A: The National Institutes of Health has a great online visual tool that allows parents to see and interact with pictures of a bedroom as they learn how to create a safe sleep environment in their own home.
What questions have parents asked you about safe sleep? We’d love to help you answer more questions!
It has only been 20 years since the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) began recommending U.S. babies always be placed on their backs for sleeping to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Many have caught on to the NICHD’s “Back to Sleep” campaign, but there is so much more to safe sleep than simply putting a baby on their back. We have to truly think about a safe sleep environment. As those who work closely with families, we must make sure every family member understands what a safe sleep environment is (and isn’t.) This conversation is a critical part of providing support to parents of newborns who want what is best for their babies, but might not know the best way to advocate for safe sleep environments or how to have intergenerational conversations about what is best for baby today.
What does a safe sleep environment look like?
Baby is placed to sleep on their back
Baby is placed on a firm sleep surface, in a safety-approved crib that is covered by a fitted sheet
There are no toys, stuffed animals, bumpers, pillows or blankets in the sleep area
Nothing is covering baby’s head
A one-piece sleeper keeps baby warm, no blankets
Baby is sleeping in their own crib next to where a parent sleeps
Baby never sleeps on an adult bed, couch, chair, or other furniture
There is no smoking in the home or around the baby
Having this knowledge is empowering for parents of newborns, especially if they know it comes from a trusted resource like you. It allows them to better articulate to all of those that care for their baby what a safe sleep environment looks like and that they will accept no less.
Parenting a new baby is not a perfect science, but we do know that parents who have positive support around them are better equipped to manage the stress, exhaustion and fear that often accompanies that first year with a new child.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, we’ve been gathering stories from our partners across the region working with moms and dads who have benefited from SCAN’s recently launched Operation Safe Babies Program:
One of the cribs went to a woman who had another baby pass away from SIDS at two months of age. When I met her she was on her own, supporting two children while on maternity leave from work. She thought having the baby sleep with her was a safer option, and shared that she needed to use what little money she had on food, not a crib. I spent time explaining safe sleep practices, showing her how to put the baby to sleep without blankets, and her baby now has a safe place to sleep beside her. – Service Provider, Fairfax County Health Department
We provided a crib and resources for a family in need—the father was out of work, and the mother was unable to work due to medical complications towards the end of her pregnancy. Their basic necessities were their priority and purchasing baby items was not an option. This family was overjoyed that we were able to provide a safe place for their newborn to sleep. – Service Provider, Arlington Department of Human Services
One of our playgroup moms, who had her fourth child in December, told us this was the first time she would have a (dedicated) place for her baby to sleep. She was so excited to receive the crib! – Service Provider, Center for Alexandria’s Children
We gave a crib to a woman who had left her husband because of domestic violence. She began her care at the Health Department with bruises and scars from past trauma. She was working 60 hours a week to save money for baby supplies, and lived in a converted sunroom of a very drafty house. I provided a crib for her when the baby came home from the hospital. The next week the mother fell ill with the flu, and when I visited, the baby slept soundly beside her in the crib. She was so thankful for a safe place to put her baby so she could rest and recuperate. – Service Provider, Fairfax County
p.s. Mother’s Day is this weekend, and many have asked us about making donations to SCAN in honor of someone they love. Today we suggest making a donation of $80, enough to provide a pack and play with bassinet as well as educational materials for new parents in economic need through our Operation Safe Babies Program.
One year ago this week, SCAN published its first white paper. In an effort to provide a deeper understanding of some of the complex issues we address in prevention and advocacy work, we continued to develop more in-depth tools for resource providers and child welfare advocates in our community. Since last fall, we’ve published two more papers. SCAN’s current list of White Papers includes:
Building Resiliency Using Children’s Stories
An overview of resiliency in children, the importance of connections with adults and specific tools and techniques for using reading, stories and specific books to build resiliency in a variety of settings. A Call to Action at the end of the paper includes “6 Steps to Build Resiliency in the Children in Your Life.” Download the white paper here.
The Power of Fathers in the Lives of Children Why are fathers important in a child’s physical, social and emotional development? Fathers are underserved in many parent-focused resources, but their involvement has a great impact on outcomes in children. A Call to Action at the end of the paper includes “10 Steps to Help Fathers Connect with Children.”Download the white paper here.
Operation Safe Babies: Reducing Child Fatalities in Northern Virginia
Inspired by SCAN’s new Operation Safe Babies initiative, we explore the impact of Severe Head Trauma (SHT) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS/SUIDS) on child fatalities as well as the power of educating new parents in safe sleep, soothing techniques and seeking parent support. A Call to Action at the end of the paper includes “7 Steps to Keep Your Infant Safe During Their First Year of Life.”Download the white paper here.
We have plans to develop additional white papers in 2016. What topics would be helpful in your work with children and families?
Earlier this week, a group of local service providers gathered in SCAN’s Community Training Room to learn about Operation Safe Babies. Although many come in to these events with some knowledge on safe sleep and abusive head trauma, there are always new issues discussed and important ideas shared. Everyone walks away with valuable information and resources to share as they work with the parents and caregivers in their communities.
As we continue to expand our circle of Operation Safe Babies partners this fall — including organizations like The Center for Alexandria’s Children, Arlington County DHS and Fairfax County Health Department — what better time to publish our NEW white paper: Operation Safe Babies: Reducing Child Fatalities in Northern Virginia? This is the third in a series of white papers SCAN has published for service providers this year, and focuses on SIDS & SUIDS, Abusive Head Trauma, and Education & Prevention, as well as 7 excellent “Calls to Action.” I hope you will take a moment to download and share this important resource.
Do you have questions about Operation Safe Babies? Please don’t hesitate to contact me to learn more about how we might be able to work together in your community to support parents and keep infants safe. As the white paper notes:
“It is important to make sure that new parents have a support network in place made up of family and friends that they can call on for support.”
We are ALL a part of those support networks. How will you take action to keep babies safe?
– Tracy Leonard, SCAN Public Education Manager email@example.com
A report recently published in Pediatrics and funded by the National Institutes of Health spotlights a troubling statistic: 20 percent of new moms said they did not receive advice from their doctors regarding current recommendations on issues like safe sleep and breastfeeding. This reflects a greater challenge we’ve noted in our community — new parents often feel isolated, in need of resources and hungry for connections that can make them more nurturing parents. Our new Operation Safe Babies initiative is one way SCAN is working to address the issue in Northern Virginia.
Many new mothers do not receive advice from physicians on aspects of infant care such as sleep position, breastfeeding, immunization and pacifier use, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Health care practitioner groups have issued recommendations and guidelines on all these aspects of infant care, based on research which has found that certain practices can prevent disease and even save lives.
The study authors surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 new mothers, inquiring about infant care advice they received from doctors, nurses, family members and the news media.
Roughly 20 percent of mothers said they did not receive advice from their doctors regarding current recommendations on breastfeeding or on placing infants to sleep on their backs—a practice long proven to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). More than 50 percent of mothers reported they received no advice on where their infants should sleep. Room-sharing with parents—but not bed-sharing—is the recommended practice for safe infant sleep.
The study appeared in Pediatrics and was conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center, Boston University, and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
“Earlier studies have shown that new mothers listen to their physicians,” said Marian Willinger, Ph.D.., of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the study. “This survey shows that physicians have an opportunity to provide new mothers with much-needed advice on how to improve infant health and even save infant lives…”