New moms at Genesis BirthCenters are discovering a baby's peaceful sleep and peace of mind are attainable. Even for brief moments at the same time.
Since Valentine's Day, babies born at Genesis BirthCenter locations in Davenport and Silvis get a first bath and then are wrapped in a HALO SleepSack wearable blanket. The SleepSack wearable blankets are replacing loose blankets, crib bumpers and stuffed animals in baby sleep spaces.
The idea is to establish a safe, comfortable sleep routine in the hospital with hopes the routine will go home with the baby and parents.
The SleepSacks wearable blankets have a design that swaddles the baby with closeable cloth "wings.'' The baby's arms can be within the blanket or out. A zipper allows easy access for diaper changes.
SleepSacks also allow babies to kick their feet naturally and unrestrained. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute has called SleepSacks "hip healthy."
"It allows the babies to have their feet and legs in a frog kick position rather than having them restrained by blankets,'' explained Genesis Health Group pediatrician Curt McClellan, D.O. "The babies seem to sleep more comfortably and soundly.
"A lot of hospitals across the country are now starting to use these in their birth centers.''
What isn't known scientifically yet is whether the wearable blankets further reduce the tragedy of sudden unexplained death in infants. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, remains a mystery because the condition cannot be explained after an autopsy or a review of the infant's clinical history.
Jenny Atzen, nurse midwife with The Group in Davenport, was a Genesis BirthCenter nurse in 2002 when Elizabeth, her 31/2-month-old daughter, died in the home of a care giver. There was no explanation for the death.
"I still miss her like crazy every day,'' Atzen said. "I was a nurse and it happened to me. If this can happen to me, the message is 'wow, this can happen to anyone.' SIDS doesn't only happen to someone else. It happens to people who think they are doing everything right.''
Atzen said she has never placed any blame on anyone. Elizabeth was sleeping in an adult bed with pillows around her and she was sleeping on her stomach.
"She slept on her stomach at home too,'' Atzen said. "We knew about the recommendations for back to sleep but Elizabeth slept better when she was sleeping on her stomach.
"Unfortunately, this is a very common practice by many parents. We paid the worst possible consequence of not following the recommendations.''
The national "Back To Sleep'' campaign recommends that newborns be placed on their backs to sleep. Since the campaign began in 1994, unexplained infant deaths have decreased by more than 3,500 each year.
"That day changed everything for me,'' Atzen said. "I can talk about it now because I think our experience can help educate others. It's very important to educate everyone about the safe sleep of babies.''
Genesis BirthCenter manager Deb Renner said the transition to SleepSacks at Genesis is part of a national trend. Hospitals across the country are creating safer sleep environments for newborns by using the wearable blankets.
"As a Magnet organization, we are very in tune with best practices and using these wearable blankets is certainly a best practice,'' Renner said. "If we can get new parents to experience the safest sleep practices for the baby in the hospital, it is a good start toward them following best sleep practices for baby at home.
"We would like to think SleepSacks could prevent the tragedy that Jenny experienced. Her experience impacted everyone she worked with because at the time we had a lot of nurses who were having babies. It made us all aware that this could happen to anyone.''
Tips For Safe Sleep
While SIDS is still a mystery in many ways, there are standard recommendations for safe sleep for infants.
Babies should have their own sleep space, like a crib or bassinet, not an adult bed
Babies should be put on their backs to sleep
All toys and bedding should be removed from the baby's sleep space
Never dress the baby too warmly for sleep
Never allow anyone to smoke around your baby at home, or in a car
Renner said the Genesis BirthCenters would like to be able to send the SleepSacks home with babies but the expense doesn't make that possible at this time.
"We'd love for someone to say, 'this sounds like a very good idea' and make a donation through the Genesis foundation,'' Renner said. "We think this is important enough that every baby should go home from Genesis with a SleepSack.''
Gifts to the Genesis Foundation have an impact on the health of the communities served by Genesis Health System. Find out more by calling (563) 421-6865.