Tips from Local Experts to Keep Baby Safe at Home

Keep baby safe at home

National and local efforts to keep babies safe at home have made significant gains in the last 20 years, but work remains. Although most Iowans have a normal pregnancy and deliver a healthy infant, not all babies are that fortunate. Nearly 4 of every 1,000 Iowa babies younger than 1 year of age die.

“Babies should sleep alone and not with their parents. It only takes on incident of an over-tired parent rolling over on their baby, or of a blanket on your bed to accidentally cover the baby’s face for something truly tragic to happen. Why risk it?”

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is one of the drivers of infant mortality. While a generation of parents lovingly placed their infants in cribs lined with bumper pads, tucked in with a stuffed animal and blanket, experts now warn that sleeping environment is unsafe and contributes to SIDS. Brittney Haskins of the UnityPoint Safety Store at Blank Childrens Hospital in Des Moines advises new parents of the ABCs of Safe Sleep:


  • Alone – the baby is alone in their safe sleep space with no stuffed animals, crib bumpers, pillows, loose blankets or parents. “We get questions from patients along the lines of, ‘but people in other countries co-sleep,’” says Haskins. “Yes, but many of them don’t have squishy mattresses, fluffy duvet covers or mountains of pillows. It only takes on incident of an over-tired parent rolling over on their baby, or of a blanket on your bed to accidentally cover the baby’s face while you’re both sleeping for something truly tragic to happen. Why risk it?”
  • Back – the baby is placed on their back to sleep. This may be new information for some grandparents who raised their children prior to the 1990s, when the Back to Sleep (now called Safe to Sleep) campaign was launched. “It’s important to update older generations who might be assisting with caregiving on this important piece of safe sleep,” says Haskins.
  • Crib – the baby is put to sleep in a crib, bassinet or pack and play. Haskins says while it’s okay if your baby falls asleep in an infant swing while you’re watching television, it’s not okay to leave them there when you are out of the room. “If you get up to take a shower or go to bed yourself, your baby must be taken out of their baby swing and put in their safe sleep space — a crib, bassinet or pack and play.”

Additional Recommendations to Keep Baby Safe
In 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued more recommendations to prevent the risk of SIDS, including:

  • Do not smoke, vape or use any kind of nicotine during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs during pregnancy.
  • Feed your baby breastmilk.
  • Visit your baby’s health care provider for regular checkups.

Offer your baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may want to wait to use a pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established.

Disparities in Infant Mortality Rates
The Back to Sleep campaign of the 1990s significantly reduced the number of SIDS deaths recorded in the U.S.; however, 2019 research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found disparities by maternal age, race and ethnicity, and urbanicity persist. Mortality rates are highest for infants of females under age 20, infants of Black mothers, and infants living in rural counties.

The infant mortality rate is expressed as a rate per 1,000 live births. Iowa’s 3.99 infant mortality rate in 2021 was lower than the national rate of 5.4. But racial and ethnic disparities remain and trends over time illustrate them. The Iowa Public Health Tracking Portal’s data finds over the five-year span of 2017 to 2021, white infants had the lowest rate of death and those who identified as a race other than “Black” or “white” had the highest rate. During that period, Hispanic infants had a mortality rate of 6.25, while the non-Hispanic infant rate was 4.50.

How EveryStep is Helping
EveryStep provides expert help navigating health and social service systems so Iowans with extra challenges, like being far from family, not speaking English fluently or having limited financial resources, can turn moments of vulnerability into opportunities for a healthier future and thriving lives.

EveryStep is part of the Community Action Network, a coalition of organizations, agencies, programs and individuals in central Iowa with a focus on improving the lives of people in our community. EveryStep nurses work one-on-one with pregnant individuals and new parents to support them in delivering a healthy baby and raising a healthy child. Events like Baby Bloom and Roll, Baby Roll connect EveryStep and its Community Action Network partners with individuals seeking assistance or needing support in their parenting journey.

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