Blog Post #3
February 11, 2011
By: Melodie Menke, GMS
Relocation Program manager
Army Community Service, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
When asked to write a blog about creating and maintaining a safe sleep environment for an infant while relocating, I did not immediately go to my professional mindset, but to my own personal memories. As an active-duty military spouse of 27 years, I have experienced the military permanent change of station moves with our daughter from diaper bags to book bags!
For many military spouses, moving across the country or overseas with a baby on the hip is part of the normal military lifestyle. For others, the experience is brand new. Whether you are a PCS veteran or a newbie, as a parent it is important to stay vigilant with safe infant sleep practices. Your baby's life depends on it!
Moving with an infant places so many demands on you. Did you remember to copy their medical and immunization records? Did you pack their favorite baby foods and enough formula? Do you have enough toys and diapers for the trip? The list seems endless. And all of this while you are still trying to balance the demands of the rest of your household: other children, pets, travel arrangements and finishing that mandatory fun list - you may never be back to this area, so you have to go that museum now! There is also the sadness of saying goodbye to friends and neighbors while trying to stay motivated about the move. Throw in trying to coordinate visiting family and relatives while traveling to your new home, no wonder moving is considered among the top three life stressors! Luckily, Military OneSource offers specialized resources to help you as you prepare for a PCS.
As you prepare for your move, are you thinking about where your baby is going to sleep as you travel? Babies do not demand designer pajamas or 500 thread count sheets, so with all the demands on your time, your infant's sleep environment may be one of the most overlooked items on your list. As you manage the stress of a move, remember the importance of maintaining your baby's safe sleep environment. Placing a baby to sleep in an adult bed or other alternative sleep space puts them at risk for suffocation and strangulation. This is a danger many parents may not know or consider to be an old wives' tale - take it from an old wife, this is no tale. Sleeping parents or siblings can roll on top of the baby or next to the baby and smother him or her while sleeping. Take precautions to ensure your baby's crib is safe and secure. If you are using a portable crib, be sure to check it against safety guidelines for portable cribs.
Keep in mind that infants don't typically develop regular sleeping patterns until about 6 months. In the midst of a move, your infant may pick up on the disruption around him or her, and may need extra time to get to sleep. Try to be consistent with your baby's sleep routine and use your baby's crib as a haven of safety and comfort during this hectic time.
To help you maintain a safe sleep environment while you are on the move, use the following sleep safety checklist - it's as simple as saying, "Baby SAFE."
S - Slats or rails on the crib should be no more than 2 3/8 inches - about the width of a soda can - between crib slats so a baby's head cannot fit through the slats. Ensure the top rails are securely locked in place. Be sure no screws or nails are protruding out from the frame as they can catch your baby's clothing. If using a portable crib with mesh siding, the mesh should be no more than ¼ inch in size, have no holes or rips and be securely fastened to the frame so the baby cannot become entangled in it. Ensure the portable cribs sides are firmly locked into place to avoid suffocation from a side wall collapse.
A - Attire - Use sleepwear rather than a blanket. Forget the fussy pillows, blankets or stuffed animals.
F - Fit and firm mattress - Be sure a firm mattress fits snugly crib. If you can fit two side-by-side fingers between the side of the crib and the mattress, the mattress is too small. Don't place your infant in the bed if there are gaps between the frame and mattress. A mattress that does not properly fit the crib can pose a risk to an infant who might crawl beneath it. Use only a fitted bottom sheet specifically made for crib use.
E - Environment - Be sure you place the crib away from windows, telephone cords and window cords. Pull the crib at least one foot away from all furniture and walls.
With these basic precautions, rest at night knowing your baby is sleeping safely. Before you know it, that little one will be asking from the backseat, "Are we there yet?"
If you have questions about safe sleep practices, please contact your local New Parent Support Program. For those who are not near a military installation, please contact your state's Joint Family Support Assistance Program or Military OneSource.