What is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, typically while the infant is sleeping, of an otherwise healthy-seeming baby during the first year of life. SIDS is also called crib death or cot death because the infants often die in their cribs, swing, or bassinet.
Although the ultimate cause is still a mystery, the latest research suggests that SIDS may be linked to irregularities in the portion of an infant’s brain that regulates breathing and sleep.
How Do I Protect My Baby From SIDS?
Researchers have uncovered some factors which may pose an additional risk to infants. They have also recommended some precautions you can take to help protect your child from SIDS.
Perhaps the single most important safety measure is ensuring your baby is on her back when placed down on the crib mattress for sleep.
What Do We Know About The Potential Causes of SIDS
Although the ultimate reason is still unknown we do know a combination of physical and sleep environmental factors can have a significant effect on a child’s vulnerability to SIDS.
Known physical factors correlated with an increased chance of SIDS:
- Brain abnormalities: Some babies are born with deformities that increase their likelihood to die of SIDS. In many of these children, the portion of the brain that controls breathing and sleep arousal has not developed fully or correctly in order to function properly.
- Low birth weight: Premature babies and infants in multiple birth deliveries have increased probability that their brain has not completely grown and matured, which leads to less control over automatic processes such as breathing and heart rate.
- Respiratory infection: Many young children who have died of SIDS also had recently been fighting off a bad cold or have been exposed to tobacco smoke, which can lead to breathing problems.
Known sleep-environment factors correlated with an increased chance of SIDS:
The items in a crib such as the babies crib mattress, crib pads, pillows, blankets, and toys as well as their sleeping position can combine with any physical factors above to increase the risk of SIDS.
- Sleeping on the stomach or side: Infants who are allowed to sleep on their stomachs or sides may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.
- Sleeping on a soft surface: Sleeping face down on a puffy comforter or on a worn out and spongy baby crib mattress can easily block an infant’s air passage. Even placing a blanket or stuffed animal in the crib with the baby is a huge SIDS risk.
- Sleeping with parents: Co-Sleeping in the same bed with the parents is one of the greatest risk factors for SIDS. However, it is true that having the baby in the same room with the parents does reduce the risk of SIDS. Just ensure the baby is in their own crib or pack-and-play, or bassinet specifically designed to for co-sleeping.
Key Risk Factors
Sudden infant death syndrome can afflict any of our babies, researchers have marked a few key factors that may increase an infant’s risk.
- Sex: Strangely male infants have a greater chance to develop SIDS.
- Age: The second and third months of life present the highest risk of dying from SIDS.
- Race: Mysteriously, African American, American Indian and Alaska Native infants are more likely to die of SIDS.
- Tobacco smoke: Infants who are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke by either second-hand smoke or who live with smokers have a much larger risk of SIDS.
- Premature birth: Being born early and having low birth weight gives a significant increase to your baby’s chances of SIDS.
Maternal risk factors
Research has shown that behaviors and traits of the mother during the pregnancy can lead to an increase of SIDS in the child after birth.
- Mothers younger than 20 years old
- Cigarette smoker
- drugs and/or alcohol use during and after the pregnancy
- negligent or insufficient prenatal care
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed method to prevent. However, there are measures you can easily take to allow your baby sleep more safely.
- Back sleeper: Ensure your baby is always sleeping on their back instead of the stomach or side. This isn’t necessary when your baby’s awake or once your baby is able to roll over without assistance.
- A spartan crib is the best crib: Use a firm and preferably breathable crib mattress and never place your infant on thick, fluffy, and impermeable pads or covers, such as lambskin or a quilt. Remove pillows, puffy toys and stuffed animals from the sleeping environment. These items are all suffocation risks if your baby’s face, nose, or mouth presses against them.
- Don’t overheat baby: You want to keep your baby warm but not too warm. Again a breathable mattress is great to allow air flow to circulate around the baby. Also use a sleep sack, proper swaddling, and warming pajamas that make additional covering unnecessary.
- Sleep in parents’ room until six months to 1 year. You may want to quickly get your child into the nursery but Ideally, your child should sleep in the same room as you for the first the first six months and preferably the entire first year in order to decrease the risk of SIDS.It is vital that your baby sleeps alone in their own crib, bassinet or another sleeper specifically designed for infants. YOUR BED IS NOT SAFE for infants.It is very easy for an infant to become trapped and suffocate between the headboard slats, stuck in the space between the mattress and the bed frame, or wedged in the space between the mattress and the wall, etc.One of the greatest suffocation risks during co-sleeping with an infant is a sleeping parent accidentally rolling over and covering baby’s nose and mouth or outright crushing the newborn.
- Breast-feed your baby: For unknown reasons, studies show breastfeeding for the first six months lowers the risk of SIDS significantly.
- Use Pacifiers Studies suggest that the use of a pacifier during sleep can reduce the risk of SIDS.