SIDS…Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

SIDS…this is one of the most frightening topics for any parent to think about much less discuss. But since The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants be put to sleep on their backs and not on their stomachs there has been quite a dramatic reduction in deaths from SIDS. In 2004 the incidence of SIDS was 1 in 1,800 babies would succumb to “sudden infant death” which was a drop from 1984 when it was 1 in 700.

SIDS is defined as the death of a healthy child before his first birthday. What is currently worrisome is the infant death rate from SIDS has remained fairly stable over the last several years and that the rate now is similar to that of 1998. There is uncertainty as to why this is…perhaps a difference in how these deaths are reported . One of the reasons is thought to be an increase in co-sleeping.

No matter what the reason, the fact that the rate is stable is not something that can be tolerated without taking some action.

It is thought that some babies are not able to arouse normally from sleep and then become oxygen deprived as they rebreathe their own carbon dioxide. This occurs more often when babies sleep on their stomachs. Increases in carbon dioxide slows down the heart rate and eventually leads to a respiratory then cardiac arrest.

So what are some of the things that a parent can do to prevent this from happening?

Here a few of the recommendations that appeared in an article in the January 2010 “Parents Magazine”

  • Babies are safest in their own sleeping space, crib, bassinet, or a co-sleeper attached or near to the parents’ bed.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics advises against bedsharing.
  • Put your baby to sleep flat on his back, babies put to sleep even on their sides tend to roll onto to their tummies thus increasing their risk for SIDS
  • Keep the crib free of soft objects, pillows, quilts and toys for the entire first year of baby’s life
  • If you need crib bumpers use ones with breathable holes only
  • Stop smoking during pregnancy and do not smoke after the baby is born…this increases a baby’s risk for SIDS
  • Do not share your bed with your infant for the entire first year of your baby’s life
  • Keep your baby in your room …there has been research that has found a decrease in the risk of SIDS when the mom is nearby at least in the first 6 months of life.
  • Give baby a pacifier…babies who suck on a pacifier do not sleep as soundly therefore reducing their risk of SIDS by two thirds compared to babies who sleep without a pacifier.
  • Breastfeed…in some studies done recently breastfeeding has been found to be protective but the reason this is so is still unclear.
  • Keep baby’s room cool at around  68 degrees. A fan on in the room has also been found to be SIDS preventative as it keeps air flowing in the room and therefore less carbon dioxide will build up around the baby’s face.
  • Avoid wedge-shape sleep positioners…baby can slide off and suffocate against it.
  • Involve caregivers….this is very important as it is found that baby’s who are used to sleeping on their backs are more prone to SIDS if put to sleep on their stomachs, as they are not used to the build up of carbon dioxide around them. Well meaning caregivers may think they are doing a good thing by letting baby sleep on their stomachs. Make sure to inform them of the importance of back sleeping.

Hopefully this has been informative and taken some of the fear and worry from you by becoming aware of what you can do to help prevent SIDS.