October is SIDS Awareness Month and today’s post will help you answer the question “what steps can I take to reduce the risk of SIDS for my baby?”
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a topic that no one wants to talk about, but parents think (*obsess*) about as a natural part of having a baby. When we bring life into this world, it is so precious to us and we want to do anything we can to protect our babies.
I’m speaking first hand as a parent. I know all the thoughts that ran rampant through my mind around SIDS when my twin boys were little. It wasn’t always a pretty place in my head and I’m sure many of you are nodding in agreement. It is a natural, normal part of parenthood to have these concerns, even if your friends aren’t talking about it with you.
Knowledge is power so I’m going to share with you more about SIDS and what steps you can do to help prevent it.
What is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. SIDS is sometimes known as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs. – Mayo Clinic
Not all unexpected infant deaths are a result of SIDS. Many deaths are attributed to accidental suffocation, parent neglect and underlying medical conditions
What causes SIDS?
That’s the tricky part about SIDS. The cause of death can’t be determined even after a complete medical exam. These undiagnosed, unexpected deaths fall into the SIDS category.
Although we can’t prevent SIDS 100%, there are identifiable risk factors that contribute to SIDs, including:
- Sleeping environment – babies who sleep with their parents; babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides; overheating babies; and babies who sleep with soft bedding or loose blankets are more likely to die of SIDS
- Physical factors – low birth weight/prematurity, respiratory issues and brain abnormalities all increase the risk of SIDS
- Other risk factors:
- Babies are at highest risk in their 2nd and 3rd month of life
- Babies exposed to cigarette smoke (before and after birth) have a higher risk of SIDS
- Boys are more susceptible to SIDS deaths than girls
- Non-white infants are more likely to develop SIDS
- Babies who have a family history of SIDS are at a greater risk
What can you do to help prevent SIDS?
While there isn’t a way to prevent SIDS completely, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- PRENATAL CARE: while pregnant, get adequate prenatal care.
- AVOID CIGARETTE SMOKE: while pregnant and after the baby is born, don’t expose your child to cigarette smoke.
- ABCs OF SAFE SLEEP: baby, ALONE, on their BACK, in a safe CRIB environment
- ALONE: room sharing is encouraged for the first 6 months, babies are safest sleeping in their own sleep environment. Babies should sleep outside of the parent’s bed and not on soft surfaces. Soft surfaces include pillow top mattresses, pillows, comforters, chairs, couches and sheepskin. Adult beds aren’t safe for infants as babies can become trapped and suffocate between the mattress and the wall / bedframe. Many sleep related infant deaths are a result of a parent accidentally rolling over and covering the babies nose and mouth.
- BACK: for the first year of life, put your baby down to sleep on his or her back, rather than the tummy or side. Once your baby can roll both ways consistently, they can choose their sleep position, but always place them down on their backs. Insist all caregivers do the same – ensure this is a part of your conversation when you are looking at daycares, nannies and babysitters and also when grandparents and family members are watching your baby.
- CRIB: the crib or bassinet should be bare. Firm mattress, fitted sheet and your baby is all you want in the crib. No toys, stuffed animals, bumpers, blankets or pillows – all of these are suffocation risks.
- PREVENT OVERHEATING: dress your baby in light layers and keep the room at a comfortable 68-72 degrees. Avoid using loose blankets and opt for a sleep sack if you are concerned about your baby being warm enough.
- AIR CIRCULATION: running a fan in your baby’s room can increase air circulation, which has also been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- PACIFIER: if your baby readily accepts a pacifier, offering one at bedtime and at naptime may reduce the risk of SIDS. Ensure that the pacifier is not attached to the baby with a string or strap. If your baby doesn’t like the pacifier, don’t force it. To help preserve sleep, if the pacifier falls out while your baby is sleeping, don’t put it back in.
- BREASTFEEDING: I’m #teamfeedyourbaby, but if possible, breastfeeding for at least six months has shown to lower the risk of SIDS
- IMMUNIZATIONS: may help to prevent SIDS.
- NIX BABY MONITORS: do not use baby monitors or other commercial devices that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. The AAP discourages the use of monitors and other devices because of ineffectiveness and safety issues.
For more information and resources, please visit the following:
- National Sudden & Unexpected Infant/Child Death & Pregnancy Loss Resource Center
- Back to Sleep Campaign from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development