SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the tragic death of an infant of unknown causes during their first year of life. No one knows what causes SIDS, however, some researchers believe that it could be the cause of lack of oxygen, due to a body’s failure to detect low levels of oxygen in the blood. Or in other words, babies may forget to breathe efficiently while they are sleeping. Last year, SIDS claimed the lives of over 3500 babies. Luckily, there are ways to help reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS.
Always Put Baby to Sleep on their Back
Although some babies love to sleep on their stomachs, putting a baby to sleep on their back can greatly reduce the risk of SIDS. Stomach sleepers are at risk of breathing in exhaled carbon dioxide, resulting in a lack of oxygen.
Avoid putting baby to sleep on soft surfaces like couches, pillows, waterbeds, or blankets. These surfaces increase baby’s risk of suffocation, entanglement, strangulation, and SIDS. A firm surface, ideally a crib or bassinet mattress is safest for baby.
Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS by at least 50% if done for more than 2 months. Studies have shown that by giving your baby breastmilk, you help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory infection that can contribute to SIDS. Plus, there are several other benefits to breastfeeding. However, if you breastfeed in your bed, make sure that you put baby in a safe sleep area when they are done feeding.Evidence shows that the longer a parent and an infant bed share, the higher the risk for sleep-related causes of infant death, such as suffocation.
Share a Room
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sharing a room with baby for at least 6 months, but ideally 12 months. This is because studies have shown that sleeping with parents nearby can reduce the risk of SIDS. It also helps promote breastfeeding. However, share a room with baby in a safe sleep area, like an attached co-sleeper or bassinet. Never let baby sleep in the bed unsupervised.
Avoid Crib Accessories
While crib bumpers, blankets, and stuffed animals might look cute, they are not safe for baby until after they are a year old. Crib bumpers have been linked to major injury and deaths and are simply not necessary.
You can begin to reduce the risk of SIDS as early as during pregnancy. Obviously, proper prenatal care and avoiding smoking and alcohol can affect baby. Women who smoke while pregnant increase their baby’s risk of SIDS and baby’s who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also at a far greater risk.
Pacifiers have been known to reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 90%. That is a huge benefit! However, don’t attach the pacifier to anything. If baby doesn't want the pacifier, don’t force it. And most importantly, if you are breastfeeding, wait 3-4 weeks to introduce a pacifier to avoid nipple confusion and any protest to breastfeeding.
Don’t Let Baby Get Too Hot
Because overheating can lead to SIDS, it is best to keep your baby in light clothing while they are sleeping. Be sure to look for signs of overheating like sweat or redness. Sleep and play outfits or a light outfit with a light sleep sack are good choices. Also, be sure to keep the room at a comfortable temperature, or what would be comfortable for an adult.
Evidence shows that babies that are vaccinated according to the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC are 50% less likely to experience SIDS than babies who are not fully vaccinated. Talk with your child’s pediatrician about any immunization concerns that you have.
According to the CDC,SIDS rates declined considerably from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 35.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. The massive decrease in SIDS cases is due to education and research to what is safest for baby. So, even if your parents did it with you and you were okay, it is better safe than sorry. Practice safe sleep practices to help reduce your baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.