Despite the fact that the number of newborns dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has significantly decreased in recent years, there are still babies who die from unexplained causes. Professionals and children-related specialists have been trying hard to raise awareness on this tragic issue but there are still parents who are oblivious to the risks that could lead to SIDS.
So how do we create a safe environment for our babies to sleep in and avoid such disastrous events from taking place?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted that includes a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history. SIDS is the third leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and the leading cause of death among infants aged 1–12 months. (CDC)
Researchers found that around 12% of the infant deaths in the United States are sofa-related. “It was shocking that one in eight SIDS and infant sleep-related deaths occurs on a sofa,” said study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. “Sofas don’t even come to mind when people think of places where infants sleep. The proportion was much, much higher than I ever could have guessed.” (WebMD)
It is very difficult to suggest which babies would be more at risk as no single factor is usually sufficient for a SIDS death. Most deaths often take place between 2-4 months of age without that excluding a SIDS related death happening in a baby 4 months and older. Potential risk factors include the following:
- smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy
- poor prenatal care
- prematurity or low birth weight
- mothers younger than 20
- tobacco smoke exposure following birth
- overheating from excessive sleepwear and bedding
- stomach sleeping
Leigh Brown, a health educator at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program, believes that a baby’s sleeping environment during the first year of life is of the highest importance. “It’s confusing for parents because in the media you see these cribs that look all cute and soft and comfortable, when all you really need is a mattress with a tight-fitting sheet. People have the misconception that babies are freezing, but overheating them is a risk factor as well”, she says. (ScienceDaily)
She says that extra unnecessary items such as too many blankets, bedding , stuffed animals and loose sheets could potentially cause suffocation since infants are not yet able to roll themselves out of dangerous situations.
Over the years people have been relating co-sleeping with SIDS and parents were left baffled as how to make sharing a bed with their babies work out for them the best. Margot Sunderland, director of Education and Training at the Centre for Child Mental Health London, supports that co-sleeping with your children helps them turn into healthy, emotionally fulfilled adults.
She says that: “In England there are 500 babies dying per years due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In China where co-sleeping is considered as a standard practice and natural m SIDS is so rare they haven’t even officially made a term for it”.
Moreover, Dr Sears, clears out any misconception on co-sleeping causing SIDS related deaths and adds that: “Co-sleeping is a common practice worldwide: The rate of SIDS is lowest in cultures that traditionally share sleep, such as Asian. While there could be many other factors contributing to the lower incidence of SIDS in these cultures, all the population studies I’ve seen have come to the same conclusion: Safe co-sleeping lowers the SIDS risk”
What can you do to reduce the risk of SIDS?
- You can take certain precautions that could protect your baby against SIDS and other sleep related infant deaths.
- Always place your baby on his/her back during sleep rather than on the side or stomach.
- Completely avoid alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy, breastfeeding and around babies and children. Second-hand smoking exposure could be deadly.
- Allow your baby to sleep in his/her crib for the first 6 months of life and if you decide co-sleep make sure you follow all the safety procedures. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that: ‘you don’t ever sleep with your baby in the same bed, if you smoke or have used alcohol, illegal drugs, or medicine that makes you sleep very soundly (sedatives). Never sleep with a baby on a couch or armchair.’
- Try to breastfeed your baby as much as possible and keep up with your baby’s immunization.
- Make sure your baby’s room is kept in a comfortable temperature so that your baby can sleep in light clothes and without too many blankets. Look out for high temperatures that should be avoided. The temperature is usually right if an adult can wear pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt without feeling cold.
- You should equipped your babys crib with a firm mattress without having to use pads or other products that attach to the sides. They could suffocate your baby.
Useful links for more information on SIDS: