A childcare provider in Colorado was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison after an infant died in her care. She had put the child down for a nap in a crib with many adult-sized sheets. The provider later checked on the child and found the baby unresponsive. The coroner’s office found that the cause of death was undetermined but commented that an “unsafe sleeping environment most likely contributed to the victim’s death.”
Unfortunately, there are many stories like this in the news and as a former childcare provider and parent of a young child, each one is heartbreaking. In many situations, if the providers had followed simple safe sleep guidelines, a family could have been spared the agony of losing a child. As this is becoming a more well-known issue, state childcare regulators are really emphasizing safe sleep training and enforcing violations.
So what is a safe sleep environment? Babies under the age of one should sleep in a crib, with only a tight-fitting crib sheet, on their backs. No blankets, crib bumpers, or anything else that could potentially block their airway. Babies should not sleep in anything other than a crib. For example, they should not be sleeping in swings, bouncers, or car seats, as this can lead to positional asphyxiation. They also shouldn’t sleep propped on any type of pillow.
It is sometimes hard for providers to take safe sleep seriously, especially if they raised their children in a different time with different guidelines. Some may say, “My daughter slept on her stomach and she turned out fine” or “My son slept with blankets his whole life.” But providers owe parents and children the best, safest care they can provide. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of babies sleeping on their backs without blankets. So providers must follow safe sleep rules, regardless what they may think of those rules.
It also doesn’t matter if a parent lets the child sleep a different way at home. My son slept in his swing all the time when he was very small. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe for a provider to do the same thing when they are trying to supervise a lot more children. Childcare providers are held to a higher standard while caring for children that aren’t their own. Just one unsafe situation can devastate both a family and a provider for the rest of their lives.