Earlier this spring, a new bill became law that impacts how your children are laid down to sleep when they're at day care. SB 1273, also known as Shepard's Bill, became law earlier this year. The law aims to make sleeping conditions at day cares safer by making it illegal to put a baby to sleep in an unsafe sleep environment with toys, blankets or other loose fabrics.
The law was prompted by the death of Shepard Dodd, an 11-week-old who suffocated at his day care last April. He was laid down to nap swaddled in an unbuckled car seat and he lost his airway and suffocated.
Since then, his mom, Ali Dodd, set out to put Shepard's Bill in action and work to educate child care providers throughout Oklahoma and beyond about safe sleep practices.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies always sleep alone, on their backs and in a crib. Dodd wants to make sure every child care provider in Oklahoma understands how important the recommendation is. She's working with Rainbow Fleet, a local non-profit that works to improve child care by educating parents and care providers, to spread knowledge about safe sleep practices.
In addition to being a referral service for parents seeking child care, Rainbow Fleet contracts with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to provide enrichment, education and training to child care providers in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. Because of Dodd's influence, one of the newest trainings Rainbow Fleet is providing is all about safe sleep.
Child care providers in the state are required to take 12 hours a year of formal, state-approved training. None of the training has to be about safe sleep, but Dodd is hoping to change legislation this fall to make at least two hours of safe sleep training required for all providers in the state.
"The reason we started doing safe sleep training here is because of Shepard," Williams said. "We heard his story and reached out to Ali and said we wanted to find a way to help."
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department also recently started offering safe sleep training to parents and child care providers.
"It's been a really neat and rewarding experience," Dodd said of speaking at the training sessions. "The providers who came are fantastic. They're truly shocked by safe sleep recommendations and I'm so grateful they're brave enough to ask the hard questions about sleep. This is their profession and they're always looking for ways to do it better and I'm just proud I can help provide that for them."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report there are about 3,500 Sudden Unexpected Infants Deaths in the U.S. each year. These deaths occur among infants less than a year old and have no immediate obvious cause. However, the CDC attributes 69 percent of them to either Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or accidental strangulation or suffocation in bed.
Although it was once widely believed acceptable to put a baby to sleep on his or her stomach, the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending back sleeping about two decades ago. The message has been slow to catch on, Williams said, but she believes thanks to parents like Dodd people are finally beginning to realize the dangers in unsafe sleep environments.
"The best thing we have going for us in the trainings is that Ali speaks to the providers about why they should care about it," Williams said. "We want to make sure what happened to Shepard never happens again in another child care facility. The more training the providers have, the less likely it is to happen again."
Choosing a child care provider can be a daunting task, but Williams and Dodd both agree asking some key questions can help ease the mind of the parent and ensure children are in a safe environment. Here are some questions Dodd recommends asking specifically about safe sleep:
- Ask to see their latest certificate on a safe sleep course they attended within the last year.
- Ask what they have done to improve the safety of their day care based on what they learned.
- Ask if they have basic business liability insurance. Ask if and how they track injuries and complaints.
- Ask to review their public licensing website and have them explain all violations.
- Compare day cares. Think about what you are getting for your money. Is your child protected as they should be?