Some hospitals moving away from blankets to reduce infant deaths

March 18, 2013 3:00 pm  •  By Paul Swiech |

BLOOMINGTON — Eloise Yaklich was crying as her father placed his 1-day-old daughter on her back into a sleep sack. He zipped up the front, folded one wing of the wearable blanket over his daughter’s torso, then the opposite wing, and secured that wing to the garment using Velcro.

“There you go. Comfy as you can be,” said Barb Powell, a registered nurse in the Birthing Center of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington, who instructed Matt Yaklich on wrapping his daughter in the wearable blanket.

Eloise stopped crying.

“You like it, don’t you?” Powell asked. “It really is amazing how infants settle down.”

Soon Eloise was asleep.

Without realizing it, Eloise, on Feb. 26, had illustrated a value of the latest fashion in infant sleepwear, which also is the latest tool in the ongoing effort to reduce sudden unexplained infant death, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Wearable blankets — in this case, a HALOSleepSack — are a trend, as more hospitals are replacing traditional receiving blankets with wearable blankets, obstetrics nurses said.

“We’re seeing more and more hospitals use them,” said Nancy Maruyama, a registered nurse and executive director of SIDS of Illinois.

“Parents will model the behavior they see in the hospitals, so if the nurses use it, parents will be more likely to follow the trend when they bring their newborns home,” Maruyama said.

“It (the sleep sack) stays in place, it’s safe and warm and the infant feels comforted,” Powell said as she and Matt and Megan Yaklich watched Eloise sleep safely and soundly on her back. “It really is a grand invention.

“And there’s the reminder on the front,” Powell said, pointing to the message on the front of the garment to remind caregivers that “back is best” to reduce the risk of sudden infant death when putting an infant down for sleep.

“This is definitely easier,” said Megan, a Normal resident who has two older daughters, Madalyn, 8, and Sophia, 5.

“The traditional blanket method is more of an art,” Matt said of nurses who know how to swaddle infants into receiving blankets. “This takes the guess work out of it.

“We’ll use it,” he said of the sleep sack that was given to them by St. Joseph.

Central Illinois hospitals are among those transitioning from traditional receiving blankets to wearable blankets.

St. Joseph, since March 2010, has trained new parents in using a HALOSleepSack and has given a sleep sack to families, along with safe sleep tips, said Renell Composto, a registered nurse and director of the Birthing Center.

The sleep sacks are a gift from a medical center auxiliary, which has spent $15,000 on the project in the past three years, Composto said. Wearable blankets also are offered for sale in the auxiliary gift shop for $17.95, she said.

Furthermore, OSF Healthcare System — including St. Joseph and OSF Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac — is considering eliminating receiving blankets altogether and replacing them with wearable blankets, said Composto and Cindy Eimer, a registered nurse and Saint James’ director of obstetrics.

Advocate Health Care also is investigating sleep sacks systemwide and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal will move from receiving blankets to sleep sacks in May, said Stephanie Wollenberg, registered nurse and Advocate BroMenn’s clinical nurse manager of obstetrics.

Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln also is considering transitioning to sleep sacks.

The move to sleep sacks is supported by SIDS of Illinois, Maruyama said, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a blanket-free sleep setting for infants because of the risk of blankets covering an infant’s face, suffocating the child. “Infants can’t push a blanket away from their face,” Maruyama said.

Thus, wearable blankets, or sleep sacks, are the best way to keep children warm and safe, nurses said. Sleep sacks still have room for infants to move their legs.

Wearable blankets — which come in different sizes and retail for $20 to $30 — should be worn for sleep for at least the first year of life, Maruyama said. By then, children are old enough to pull blankets off their face or push themselves away from danger.

*Courtesy of:

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