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Safe Sleep: Newborns at Tacoma General get a take-home sleep sack

Posted on Oct. 14, 2013 ( comments)
Victor Toy wears a sleep sack after he was born at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.

Baby Victor probably didn’t realize it, but his cozy new wearable blanket also kept him safe while he slept on his back at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.

Tacoma General recently began bundling babies in the Halo SleepSack Swaddle, and will give one to every newborn to take home as part of the hospital’s efforts to keep babies safe during sleep. 

The wearable sleep sacks are used in place of loose blankets that could be a risk for newborns. 

“We like the sleep sack a lot,” said Victor’s dad, Josh Toy. “It's very convenient and easy to use.”

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The Toy family didn’t know about sleep sacks when their first child was born a few years ago, but said they were pleased to receive a sleep sack for Victor.

“We appreciate that Tacoma General Hospital introduced us to the sleep sack,” Josh said. “Otherwise, I would not have known of the great safety benefits provided by the sleep sack, and learned to enjoy its ease of use.”

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Along with the sleep sacks, parents also receive a card of safe sleeping tips that have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation. 

In 2011, 387 infants died in their first year of life in Washington state. To keep a baby safe, start with the ABC’s of Safe Sleep: babies should sleep ALONE, on their BACK, in a CRIB. (Learn more tips for infant sleep safety.)

The sleep sacks are a gift to parents from the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety.

“We chose sleep sacks because correct swaddling can be difficult for parents,” said Erin Summa, a Child Safety Educator at the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety. “If done too tightly, it can cause breathing and hip problems, and blankets swaddled too loosely can cover the nose and mouth, potentially suffocating the infant. Sleep sacks are an easy way to keep baby both warm and safe for sleep.”

The take-home sleep sack giveaway started at the end of summer at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital also began using in-hospital sleep sacks for babies less than a year old who stay overnight.

Check out Family Birth Centers in Tacoma, Puyallup and Auburn.

October is SIDS Awareness Month, and every baby born at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center in October will also receive a free sleep sack.

Sadly, about 4,500 babies die unexpectedly each year in the United States, often during sleep. Sometimes we know why (suffocation by fluffy bedding or a sleeping adult, for example) but in more than half of these cases, even a thorough investigation leaves us with no answers. Those unexplainable infant deaths are called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

Even when we don’t know exactly “why” a baby has died, investigators have found the risk factors to be consistent – the same steps that decrease the risk of suffocation have the added benefit of decreasing the risk of SIDS as well.

The following guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics have been shown to reduce the risk of both suffocation and SIDS for babies younger than one year:

  • Back to sleep, for every sleep. Babies should never be put to sleep on their tummy or side.
  • Baby must always sleep on a firm surface, like a crib or bassinet with a tightly fitted sheet. Never on an adult bed, couch, chair or pillow – due to risk of suffocation and entrapment.
  • Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib. Remove blankets, pillows, bumpers, and toys. Dress your baby in a sleep sack or footed pajamas for warmth and safety.
  • Room-share, but don’t bed-share. We all want our babies close by at night, but many have suffocated when sleeping next to a well- intentioned parent, sibling, or pet – don’t risk it. Enjoy cuddling with your baby when awake or breastfeeding, but return them to their own crib when it’s time to sleep.
  • Breastfeed your baby for the best protection. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS and many other health problems, every bit helps.
  • Offer a pacifier when putting baby down for sleep. Don’t force the pacifier, if your baby doesn’t want it. And when it falls out during sleep, there is no need to put it back in. Breastfeeding babies should wait until they are fully accustomed to nursing, around 3-4 weeks.
  • Avoid overheating and over-bundling. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  • Keep your baby’s environment smoke-free. For help quitting, go to
  • Avoid devices marketed to reduce SIDS. There is no evidence that they are safe or effective.
  • Encourage supervised “tummy time” when baby is awake. This will help to strengthen your child’s upper body, and minimize flattening on the back of the head.
  • Keep up-to-date on your child’s immunizations.

If you have questions or would like more information, call the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety at 253-403-1234, or visit

Resources for caregivers:

Northwest Infant Survival and SIDS Alliance • or 1.800.533.0376

National “Safe to Sleep” Campaign • or 1.800.505.CRIB

American Academy of Pediatrics •

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