Dr. Allen Cherer is a neonatal care expert with over 30 years of medical accomplishments to his name.

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DiGeorge Syndrome: An Overview

Primarily observed in children under the age of two, DiGeorge Syndrome is a rare neonatal chromosomal disorder affecting bodily development. The condition, which is also called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, is caused by a defect in chromosome 22 and has a varying range of symptoms impacting both physical and mental growth. In some cases, it can be passed genetically from an affected parent to a child.

Due to the condition’s long list of symptoms — many of which are caused by a myriad of other conditions — DiGeorge Syndrome can be difficult to diagnose and treat, which means you will need to seek out an accurate and prompt evaluation from a trusted healthcare professional. Starting out, however, here is a quick overview of the condition to potentially point you in the right direction.

Knowing the signs

As mentioned before, symptoms of DiGeorge Syndrome can be vast, and therefore the condition can be hard to pinpoint at first. That said, there are several broad symptoms that have become listed as common warning signs; these include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin caused by a lack of oxygen).
  • Learning difficulties, including those typically associated with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Seizures and other epileptic symptoms
  • Feeding problems and failure to gain weight

Other, less externally evident symptoms may include autoimmune disorders, heart murmurs, frequent infections, and issues with the palate. In any scenario, the easiest and most established way to diagnose the condition is genetic testing, which can

Treating DiGeorge Syndrome

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for DiGeorge Syndrome — though certain symptoms may be individually treatable; this can fluctuate based on the urgency of the symptoms in question. For example, symptoms associated with certain immune-based disorders should ideally be addressed sooner than later to increase the chances of effective treatment. Other condition-based byproducts, like learning disabilities and anxiety, can be mitigated through proper intervention aimed at fostering intellectual growth and emotional stability.

These efforts may not treat the underlying root of the issue, but they can help on other fronts, such as improving the child’s overall quality of life.

Prevention can also be key in stopping the condition; if you feel you may have a family history of DiGeorge Syndrome, consult a specialist prior to any future pregnancies.


Respiratory Distress in Newborns

Respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS, is a common lung complaint for infants. This is especially true in premature babies, born before 37 weeks. The more premature the baby, the greater the chance the child will develop RDS.

RDS is caused by a shortage of pulmonary surfactant. Surfactant is a liquid that helps keep air sacs in the lungs, known as alveoli, open. Alveoli are critical. They are the site of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. They make it possible for the blood to be oxygenated fully. Since surfactant makes this possible, it’s a very important substance indeed.

There are several risk factors for RDS. In addition to prematurity, babies with RDS are more likely to be white, male, and multiples. Mothers with diabetes are more likely to give birth to RDS babies. Babies delivered by c-section are also more likely to develop this problem.

Parents of babies with some of these risk factors should be aware of the symptoms of respiratory distress syndrome. Babies with RDS breathe fast. They may grunt, making an ugh sound with each breath. Their nostrils will flare every time they breathe. Finally, they can have retractions, where the skin pulls under the rib cage or in between ribs with each breath. Their skin may not be as pink as that of a typical baby.

Luckily, there is treatment for RDS these days. Delivery of oxygen by nasal cannula is one treatment. A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine can be used to push air into an infant’s lungs. This will keep the alveoli open. Severe cases of RDS can require a ventilator.

Ventilators are a serious measure. They require intubation, or a tube being placed down the infant’s windpipe. Ventilators are only used in babies who can’t breathe well without assistance.

In addition to helping deliver more oxygen, the issue of a lack of surfactant can also be addressed. Surfactant can be delivered directly to the lungs, also via intubation. Medications to calm the infant are also used, especially when intubation is required.

RDS can sometimes also be associated with infections. In those cases, antibiotics may be given to the infant. Not every baby requires all of these treatments. In some cases, babies get worse before getting better. RDS is, in general, very treatable.


Neonatology: an overview

Neonatology is a type of pediatrics, focusing specifically on medical care for newborns. The primary patients of neonatology are newborn infants who were born ill or became ill shortly after birth.

Here is a quick overview of this medical concentration, for those unfamiliar.

Origins of Neonatology

Neonatology is a very recent concentration of pediatrics. High infant mortality rates existed as early as the late 1800s. The first premature infant incubator station was created in Chicago by Joseph DeLee. The first NICU (newborn intensive care unit) was established in New Haven, Connecticut. Neonatology was officially recognized as an official subspecialty of pediatrics in 1975 by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Modern Neonatologists

Modern neonatology physicians are not here to help with minor problems; a normal pediatrician will be able to assist with most medical issues in infants. A neonatologist is trained to deal with high-risk situations. Premature babies, birth defects, and other serious issues are handled by neonatologists.

Neonatologists are serious doctors, and it takes serious time to become qualified. In addition to a standard college education, a doctor must have 4 years of medical school, 3 years of residency in pediatrics, 3 more years of residency in newborn intensive care, and they must be certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

In addition to neonatologists, there are neonatal nurse practitioners. These nurses are specialized in neonatal care, and they will be assisting the physician along the way. They are able to diagnose some issues, prescribe medication, and some can even perform medical procedures themselves.

A neonatologist may assist with the diagnoses of breathing disorders, certain infections, and birth defects. They will also be the primary strategist in treatment options for an infant. They will formulate nutrition plans to make sure an infant will have maximum growth. A neonatologist will work closely with other medical staff, pediatricians, and nursing staff to assist with any serious illnesses in newborns.

Neonatologists are Best for Newborns

Minor problems for adults could mean possible death for an infant. That’s why specialists are needed for infants. There are also many common postpartum issues that a neonatologists can assist with. Many of these are routine for them; however, rare diseases and disorders can be diagnosed by a neonatologist as well.

Neonatal jaundice, neonatal cancer, inborn errors of metabolism, neonatal diabetes mellitus, neonatal herpes simplex, and neonatal seizure are a few of the more common problems a neonatologist will assist with.

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The Prevention of Cystic Fibrosis in Newborns

Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common conditions caused by genetics. One baby out of every 3,500 live births will have cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis affects the respiratory and digestive systems. Normally, the mucus that lines organs in the body is thin and slick with a consistency slightly thicker than water. Babies who are born with cystic fibrosis have mucus that is sticky and thick. If the mucus builds up, it makes breathing difficult. Additionally, the thick mucus can prevent nutrients from being absorbed properly, which may lead to poor growth.

Causes of Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition and must be inherited from a parent. A gene mutation causes cystic fibrosis. When it is passed on to a child, the baby will be born with the condition. There is no way to prevent cystic fibrosis from occurring in newborns.

Diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis

In the United States, newborns are regularly screened for cystic fibrosis. A small amount of blood is taken from the newborn and examined for high levels of a chemical called immunoreactive trypsinogen (IRT). If IRT levels are higher than normal, a secondary test will be run in order to rule out other conditions that can also present with high IRT levels.

The second test is known as a “sweat test.” Newborns with cystic fibrosis have more salt in their sweat than normal. Medication will be administered to the baby that causes sweat to form. This sweat will then be tested for sodium levels. If sodium levels are high, cystic fibrosis is typically diagnosed. Additional tests, such as genetic tests, may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis in Newborns

When diagnosed early, cystic fibrosis has a higher success rate of treatment. Prescription medications can help prevent infections from occurring, reduce lung damage and decrease inflammation. Physical therapy will help loosen the thick mucus and make it easier for babies to breathe. A special diet will help increase food absorption and help newborns with the condition grow and thrive.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening condition that requires continual care. Though there is no way to prevent cystic fibrosis in newborns, medical advancements can help babies diagnosed with the condition live longer and healthier lives than ever before.


Neonatology: a Brief History

Physicians and scientists began recognizing that premature or ill newborns required specialized care in the 1700s. However, it would be another century before a physician would take the first steps toward improving neonatal health. In the coming years, advancements in science and technology steadily enhanced the chances that preterm infants survived.

19th Century 

French obstetrician Etienne Stephane Tarnier recognized that premature infants were unable to maintain their body temperature. The physician invented the first incubator using a wooden box with a glass lid. The heat was provided by a hot water bottle. As a result, infant mortality decreased by 28 percent.

Pierre-Constant Budin trained under Dr. Tarnier and became a pioneer in neonatal nutrition during the late 1800s. Dr. Budin was aware of the risks of feeding newborns cow’s milk due to pathogens. He encouraged his new mothers to breastfeed. He was also responsible for introducing tube feeding for preemies who were unable to feed naturally.

By the early 1900s, Martin Couney, one of Dr. Budin’s students, improved upon Tarnier’s incubator design. However, the medical community was not accepting and the devices were not used in hospitals. In order to gain attention for the need, Dr. Couney began treating infants free of charge and demonstrated his invention at expositions and fairs.

20th Century 

For the most part, premature or ailing infants were not provided medical care. It was not until after World War II that the medical community recognized the need to offer specialized care. During this era, hospitals began developing “Special Care Baby Units” that eventually evolved into NICUs. Along with providing sufficient warmth, the units ensured that the infants received oxygen. There was also increasing awareness of an infant’s susceptibility to infection, which led to stringent hand washing.

Formulas for premature infants were introduced during this time. The formulas contained increased levels of calcium, phosphorus, sodium and protein. However, the high protein levels soon created a number of problems. As such, whey proteins were used.

Beginning in the 1960s, laboratory tests and values were established to monitor infant health. Physicians created a way to evaluate blood gases, bilirubin levels and liver function along with checking electrolytes, blood sugar and oxygen levels.

Advancements in knowledge and technology meant that infants born after 23 weeks of gestation had a survival rate of 33 percent. Infants born after 24 weeks had a survival rate of 66 percent. The survival rates continue growing each year.


DNA Sequencing Could Change How We Look at Genetic Neonatal Diseases

DNA sequencing is one of the most promising new technologies in terms of identifying the risk of disease, but it might not quite be ready for market. But regardless of concerns that DNA sequencing isn’t yet a safe screening method for newborn infants, chances are very strong that it will become a regular toolkit in preventative medicine sooner rather than later.

Routine blood tests are already part of standard procedure for infants born in the United States, and these tests can provide some substantive insight into potential future risks. But while a routine blood test can help identify dozens of different genetic conditions, that’s just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with DNA sequencing. A study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics conducted DNA sequencing on 159 babies and found that 9% displayed anomalies that could predict genetic diseases that could appear in childhood. These include congenital heart disease and hearing loss.

But how much of an effect this testing could have on the health of infants is still an open question. Even co-author Alan Beggs questions how much substantive and actionable intelligence will arise from these genetic markers, at least for now. Nine percent is a low number, and many of these issues can be uncovered with the existing blood testing. Then there’s the fact that many of these genetic markers are not that well understood yet, and it can be difficult to understand how high of a risk such a genetic marker would actually pose.

Finally, there are a number of ethical and practical questions to consider. It can be hard to unpack issues of consent when dealing with the very genetic makeup of a child, and the rules behind the sharing of personal data, even as a means to better understand the map of human DNA, is still something like the Wild West. Finally, there are questions of how accessible this technology is and the costs associated for both medical providers and patients.

The running consensus now seems to be that DNA sequencing may be a beneficial choice in specific instances where parents are concerned about severe genetic disorders, but it’s not quite ready for primetime. As the technology and research continues to develop, it will likely become standard practice as a complement rather than a replacement for standard and accepted blood tests.

Congenital Hypothyroidism and Newborn Screening

Congenital Hypothyroidism and Newborn Screening

Newborn screening for Congenital Hypothyroidism (CH) is a major public health achievement. Thyroid hormone is essential for the maturation of brain function and somatic growth, and its deficiency early in life can lead to mental retardation. For the fetus, maternal thyroid status is important during the first half of gestation; thereafter, the fetus’  hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis is functional in the normal situation. For the hypothyroid newborn, it is well documented that provision of thyroid hormone is critical during the first weeks of life to avoid severe intellectual impairment. Notably, congenital hypothyroidism is considered one of the most common preventable causes  of mental retardation.

Studies showed that affected newborns were rarely identified during the first months of life and were often missed until 1-3 years of age. Congenital hypothyroidism  was found to be  an ideal candidate with the introduction of dried blood newborn screening by Dussault in Canada. With the development of increasingly sensitive assays to measure thyroid hormone (T4) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) using a dried blood spot (DBS), newborn screening programs have developed throughout much of the world. In the 1980s, the incidence of CH in the United States was estimated to be 1:3000-1:4000. More recently, screening programs have reported an increased incidence of 1:1400-1:2800, most probably due to changes in screening strategies and the identification of milder cases.

Typically, newborn screening requires a heel stick blood specimen obtained at 48-72 hrs of life prior to an infant’s discharge from the hospital. Most current assays measure TSH alone as an indicator of thyroid function.  Results above established cutoff levels generally signify thyroid gland dysfunction and indicate further testing. Although most helpful in early identification of term newborns with anatomic or functional thyroid gland abnormalities, the screening does miss a percentage of newborns, for example those with central hypothyroidism due to hypothalamic-pituitary failure and the increasingly larger group of preterm  infants with congenital hypothyroidism who demonstrate delayed elevations in TSH. Numerous questions remain regarding the optimal timing of follow up laboratory studies and even treatment of certain types of newborn thyroid dysfunction.Nevertheless, newborn screening has proved invaluable for the great number of affected newborns.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the measurement of TSH in all newborns with the goal that all infants with CH be identified by 2 weeks of age and that effective treatment with thyroid hormone replacement be started such that serum TSH levels less than 5 mIU/L be achieved within 4 weeks of diagnosis. Unfortunately, despite the significant successes following early identification and treatment of newborns with CH, obstacles persist in reaching the Academy’s goals. Screening programs continue to be plagued with the practical problems of screening all newborns, particularly those discharged home early who are lost to recall or lost to follow up altogether.  In addition, dried blood specimens are collected or processed improperly. Delays occur with recall of infants with abnormal results and with appropriate referrals for definitive treatment and management. A recent study conducted in Utah and reported at the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association highlights some of the problems which currently exist. After reviewing the TSH assays of 4394 children under 2 years of age, 48% of initial samples with elevated  levels (>20 mIU/L) were obtained after  the first 2 weeks of life, 15% of the initial abnormal TSH assays were not retested, and only 34% of those infants with initial elevated TSH assays achieved the goal of TSH < 5 mIU/L within 28 days of the initial assay.

The final message is that it is not enough to rely on the known efficacy of newborn screening for congenital hypothyroidism, but greater vigilance must be exercised to maximize its benefits in the lives of children.

Ehrenkranz J, Butler A, Snow G, Bach P. oral Abstract 19. The Diagnosis and Treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidism in Utah 2006-2015. Presented at: American Thyroid Association Annual Meeting; September 21-25, 2016; Denver, Colorado

Noting the Extraordinary Success of Hib Vaccination

August is observed as National Immunization Awareness Month and is a time to highlight the extreme importance and value of vaccination for people of all ages. Vaccination serves as one of the best ways to protect infants, children, and adolescents from sixteen potentially harmful, and even deadly, diseases. Although it is common to think of the vaccines against measles, pertussis, and polio, an astonishingly important vaccine since the end of the 20th century has targeted the bacteria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Haemophilus influenzae is a small, pleomorphic, gram negative coccobacillus. Some strains of H. influenzae possess a polysaccharide capsule, and these strains are serotyped into six different types (a-f) based on their biochemically different capsules.

The H. influenzae strains with no capsule are termed nonencapsulated H. influenzae or nontypable H. influenzae (NTHi). H. influenzae type b is the most virulent, with its polysaccharide capsule being the main factor. Antibody to the capsule is the primary contributor to serum bactericidal activity, and increasing levels of antibody are associated with decreasing risk of invasive H. influenzae disease.

H. influenzae type b most commonly causes pneumonia, bacteremia, meningitis, epiglottitis, and cellulitis. Non-type b encapsulated forms present in a similar manner to type b infections, while non typable strains more commonly cause infections of the respiratory tract, such as pneumonia, otitis media, sinusitis, and conjunctivitis.

Generally, the mode of transmission is person to person by inhalation of respiratory tract droplets or by direct contact with respiratory tract secretions. Pharyngeal colonization by H. influenzae is relatively common, especially with nontypable and non-type b capsular strains.
Before effective Hib conjugate vaccines for infants older than 2 months were available in 1990, Haemophilus influenzae type b was the leading cause of invasive bacterial disease among children in the United States.

One in 200 children developed invasive Hib disease by 5 years of age; approximately 60% of these children had meningitis and 3-6% died from the disease. Of the Hib meningitis survivors, many exhibited permanent sequelae ranging from mild hearing loss to mental retardation.

Sadly, I recall as a Pediatric resident admitting to the hospital at least one infant with H. influenzae type b meningitis almost every night when on call.Remarkably, since the introduction of Hib conjugate vaccines in the United States, the incidence of invasive Hib disease has decreased a stunning 99% to fewer than 1 case/100,000 children younger than 5 years of age, and in 2012, only 30 cases of invasive type b disease were reported in children under 5 years old.

Truly, it has been an amazing accomplishment. Nevertheless, the risk for invasive Hib disease persists among unimmunized and underimmunized children, highlighting the importance of full vaccination with the 2 or 3 injection (depending on the product) series between 2 and 6 months old and a single booster dose given between 12 and 15 months of age.

Certain additional doses may be indicated over 5 years of age depending on medical conditions, such as anatomic or functional asplenia, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, or HIV infection. The Hib vaccine is very safe. The most common side effects are usually mild and consist of fever and rednesss, swelling, or warmth at the injection site. As with all current vaccines, significant advances and improvement in public health have been witnessed. It is incumbent upon each of us to maintain that success.

Providing Care for Drug-exposed Newborns: Time for the Next Step

During the years 1999-2013, the amount of prescription opioids dispensed in the United States nearly quadrupled, and since 2000, it is estimated that opioid use during pregnancy has tripled. Notably, the tragic consequences of the extreme availability of such drugs include abuse, physical dependence, and increasingly, death through inadvertent overdose.

newborn-boy-sleepingIn addition, for the individual pregnant woman, a minimum of two lives is affected: her own and that of her unborn child. The prevalence of prenatally exposed newborns to one or more illicit drugs approximates 6%. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) refers to the withdrawal symptoms from physical dependence experienced by the newborn exposed during pregnancy generally to illicit drugs, prescribed drugs, or to those opioids employed in medication-assisted treatment of maternal opioid addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary markedly in terms of time of onset and severity but typically manifest as tremulousness, agitation, sleeplessness, and poor feeding. NAS increased threefold from 2000-2009 and frequently requires prolonged newborn hospitalization. It has been reported that aggregate hospital charges for NAS increased from 732 million dollars to 1.5 billion dollars with approximately 80% attributed to state Medicaid programs in 2012. Clearly, NAS is a costly public health problem resulting in significant human suffering and expense.

Traditionally, infants who are known to be at risk for NAS have been monitored in the postpartum unit after birth for at least 96 hours and withdrawal symptoms scored based on the Finnegan Scale developed in the mid 1970’s. Typically, if the scores exceed certain values, the newborn is admitted to a Special Care Unit where pharmacologic treatment is frequently started. As withdrawal symptoms subside, dosing is gradually tapered and ultimately stopped. The newborn is observed off medication and monitored for recurrence of disabling withdrawal symptoms. The entire process can generally result in a prolonged Special Care Unit hospital stay of 2-10 weeks.

With the seemingly overnight explosion in the number of newborns demonstrating withdrawal symptoms in the early 2000’s, medical caregivers and hospitals were caught off-guard. On short notice, staff addiction education, medication and weaning protocols, general care policies, and hospital space allocation were required. After a number of years of concerted, collaborative work, much has been learned and achieved in improving the care of the substance-exposed infant.

Nevertheless, pharmacologic treatment continues to require prolonged hospital stays, often in costly Special Care Units. In addition, it effectively excludes full participation by the eventual sole primary caregivers, ideally the parents. It is with these disturbing issues in mind that it is refreshing to note the work and studies over the past several years to further optimize the care provided to infants with NAS and their families.

One of the earlier studies to suggest the therapeutic benefits of a different approach to caring for the drug-exposed infant was that of Abrahams et al. published in the Canadian Family Physician in 2007. During the same period of frenzy involving inpatient hospital transfers, guaranteeing interobserver scoring reliability, pharmacologic treatment protocols, and nursing care directives, the Canadian group with extensive previous experience in addiction medicine reported in a retrospective cohort study the benefits of a rooming-in policy whereby infants remained with their mothers as primary caretakers.

They noted that infants who roomed-in were less likely to require pharmacologic therapy for withdrawal and more likely to be discharged to mother’s care compared to infant’s who received standard nursery care. Subsequently, other retrospective cohort studies both in Europe and the United States demonstrated equally beneficial effects of rooming-in regarding decreased requirement for pharmacologic therapy and decreased duration of hospital stay.

Most recently, the results of a quality collaborative project from the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock were described in the May, 2016 Pediatrics and demonstrated the beneficial effects of combined standardized protocols and family-centered care in the management of the drug-exposed infant. Over time, the project safely reduced the number of infants requiring pharmacologic therapy, average length of stay, and overall hospital costs.

Among others, key drivers to success were prenatal education of family caregivers including expressed expectation that they would provide meaningful rooming-in care, baby-centered NAS scoring including on demand feeding schedules, pharmacologic therapy when necessary with dosing adjustment based on overall infant condition rather than solely Finnegan score and determined by a consistent team, and an infant “snuggler” volunteer program to assist families when times required their absence.

Overall, the project demonstrated that despite many practical obstacles to providing high quality care for drug-exposed newborns and their families in the hospital setting, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Promoting Safe Sleep for Infants

Very few life events result in the anguish that comes with the death of an infant, especially one that is sudden and unexpected. Each year in the United States, approximately 3500 sudden, unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) occur generally between the ages of 1 month and 1 year at a time when most infants sleep between 12 -18 hours/day.

They consist of three main types with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) being the predominant one, and deaths due to unknown causes and those due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed (ASSB) comprising the remainder.

The combined SUID death rate declined markedly following the 1992 American Academy of Pediatrics infant sleep recommendations and the initiation of the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994 with a primary focus on supine positioning during all infant sleep.

The combined SUID death rate decreased again slightly in 2009, and since that time has remained fairly constant. On the other hand, the ASSB, traditionally the least common of the three main causes of SUID, mortality rate remained unchanged until the late 1990s and has started a slow increase with its highest point in 2014.

Due in part to the success of the Back to Sleep campaign and to the increasing incidence of other sleep-related causes of SUID, the American Academy of Pediatrics broadened its focus since 2005 to include other factors resulting in an unsafe sleep environment and contributing to sleep-related infant deaths.

It is important to remember that the recommendations from the Safe to Sleep campaign are wholly derived from case-control studies and are based for the most part on epidemiologic studies including infants up to 1 year of age. The recommendations should therefore be applied to infants up to 1 year of age, except for those individuals in whom medical conditions warrant modification.

baby sleepingWhen it comes to safe sleep environment, remember the phrases “Back to Sleep”, “Bare is Best”, and “Room-sharing without Bed-sharing”. The basic underlying point to promote a safe sleep environment starts with every caretaker positioning every healthy infant on his or her back for every sleep.

Protective airway mechanisms prevent choking and aspiration. Only those infants with significant upper airway disorders warrant modification. Side sleeping is not recommended, and elevation while supine can be complicated by respiratory compromise if the infant’s position changes.

Preterm infants requiring prolonged hospitalization should also be maintained in the supine position during sleep when they are medically stable and long before they are ready for discharge to home.

Although the general recommendation pertains to infants up to one year of age, once an infant is capable of rolling from supine to prone and vice versa, the infant can remain in the sleep position that he or she assumes.
Since infants spend almost all of their time in a crib, bassinet, or play yard, these environments are especially important. Many infant deaths are associated with broken cribs with loose or missing parts.

Cribs should be no older than ten years and conform to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Before use, the product should be checked for previous recall. Cribs require narrow slats and stable sides. Since 2011, federal safety standards prohibit the sale of drop side rail cribs. Specific mattresses designed for the crib should be firm and covered with a fitted sheet.

There should be no gaps larger than two finger breadths between the mattress and the crib. Soft materials or objects, such as pillows, comforters, or sheepskins even when covered with a sheet , should not be placed under a sleeping infant. Research shows that babies who sleep on soft surfaces which allow the baby’s head to sink into the surface are at higher risk for SIDS and suffocation.

If an infant falls asleep in a sitting device, such as a car safety seat, stroller, swing, or infant carrier, he or she should be removed from the product and moved to a crib or other appropriate firm flat surface as soon as practical.

When infant slings or cloth carriers are used, the infant’s head should be up and above the fabric, the face visible, and the nose and mouth not obstructed. The crib surface should be free of stuffed animals, pillows, toys, bumper pads, or blankets to reduce the risk of suffocation or entrapment. The crib, bassinet, or play yard should be positioned away from wall hangings, and the area should be free of blind and curtain cords which can result in strangulation.

Room-sharing without bed-sharing is recommended and is most likely to prevent accidental suffocation especially from overlaying, strangulation, and entrapment that might occur when an infant is sleeping in an adult bed. Soft mattresses, pillows, quilts, and loose bed linens provide a high risk environment for infants. Certainly, infants can be brought into the bed for feeding or comforting but should be returned to their own crib or bassinet when the parent is ready to return to sleep.

Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated increased risks for SIDS and suffocation when bed-sharing involves infants less than three months of age, other children or multiple persons, and caretakers who are excessively tired, current smokers, or are using medications or substances that impair alertness or ability to arouse. It is best to provide separate sleep areas and avoid co-bedding for twins and higher multiples in the hospital and at home.

Certain sudden, unexpected infant deaths are not preventable. Continuing research particularly related to SIDS will provide new insights into the mechanisms resulting in this tragedy. Nevertheless, vigilance in attending to those modifiable environmental risk factors is highly desirable.

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