The Perspective
FALL 2013

Rock-a-bye Baby

Pregnancy, especially a first pregnancy, is filled with excitement and the sudden realization that there’s a lot to learn in nine months, including how to provide a safe sleep environment for your new baby.

Safe sleep has been in the news lately due to the increased popularity of the family bed and the rising number of infant deaths caused by unsafe sleep environments. Since 2006 Clark County has averaged 21 infant deaths annually.

Safe sleep initiative

Margarita DeSantos is a nurse, mother and soon-to-be grandmother. As a community nurse manager at the Southern Nevada Health District, she oversees programs designed to ensure babies have a good start in life. But it wasn’t until she joined the Clark County Child Death Review Team (CDRT) that she realized the need to advocate for safe sleep for children.

The CDRT assesses and analyzes cases involving the death of any child younger than 18 years of age in Clark County and in recent years found the number of cases of infants dying from unsafe sleep environments to be alarming. “Suffication, often due to unsafe sleep environments, is the leading cause of accidential death in children under one year old in Clark County,” says DeSantos. “And it’s completely preventable.”

To help parents make safe sleep choices for their baby, the health district collaborated with the CDRT to develop the hospital based Baby Safe Sleep Program, including a video and educational materials for new mothers, hospital staff and caregivers. The ultimate goal in making the video was to dispel safe sleep myths and to educate on safe sleeping practices.

Putting recommendations into action

Tami Bruno is the mother of two, ages 9 and 2, and had very different experiences when putting her children down to sleep. When Bruno’s oldest daughter was born, she slept in the bed with her parents. “We ended up having a family bed as a matter of convenience and because we really needed a good night’s sleep,” explains Bruno. ”And our daughter didn’t sleep well in her crib.” Bruno’s second child slept better, so she spent 90 percent of her sleep time in her crib.

DeSantos realizes that “it’s very hard on tired parents, but eventually the baby will get used to sleeping on her back.” If the baby is sleeping in a bassinet or crib next to the bed, DeSantos suggests, “Mom can reach over and soothe baby if she’s restless, without bringing her into the bed.”

Safe sleeping is one of many things Devin Raman has to think about before her son is born in December. “There are so many recommendations that you have to consider being a new mother,” Raman says. She plans on having her son sleep in a crib next to the bed so she can be close and to make breastfeeding easier. Her biggest worry is that her son won’t follow the plan and believes that “every child is different and it’s important to develop a routine that is both safe and meets the needs of baby and parents.”

DeSantos acknowledges that “ultimately, it’s the parent’s choice how to put their child to sleep” but she wants parents to “understand that their child’s safety is of the utmost importance and their baby will get used to sleeping on his back, in his crib… it just may take more than a few days.”

DeSantos stresses the importance of setting routines for your baby, such as set feeding times and a bedtime routine each night. She suggests, “Go to a quiet and darkened environment, feed your child and rock him until he falls asleep before putting him in his crib, on his back.” These routines make sleeping time easier on both parent and baby.

Bonding time

Parents sometimes confuse bonding time with sleeping time. “Bonding time is when you hold your baby, and she feels your warmth, hears your heartbeat, and smells your smell.” says DeSantos. Bonding time is important and it can certainly be part of your bedtime routine, but “when she falls asleep, place her in her own sleeping space on her back.”


The Southern Nevada Health District partners with the Clark County Child Death Review Team to educate parents about the sleeping risks associated with newborns. For details about creating a safe sleep environment for your baby, visit the Preventing Infant Suffocation and SIDS webpage.

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