Every parent worries about their child’s safety from the time they are born, often times even before. The unfortunate part is, until recently, parents didn’t worry about their baby when she was sleeping. Thankfully with the back to sleep campaign more parents are educated about SIDS and the safe ways for babies to sleep.
What is SIDS?
Chances are you have heard the term before, but you may not be completely aware what it is exactly. SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS is the leading cause of death in children 1 month to 1 year old. Infants are most at risk during months 2 and 3 of life; 90% of SIDS deaths occur before 6 months of age. SIDS most often occurs during sleep and to babies who seem perfectly healthy. A baby is no longer at risk for SIDS after her first birthday.
What are the risk factors?
While SIDS cannot be predicted, there are several risk factors for SIDS. The most important risk factor is sleeping with an adult. Seventy-five percent of babies who die suddenly and unexpectedly die while they are sleeping in the same place (couch, bed, armchair) as another person. Babies who live with people who smoke are also more at risk to die suddenly. Other risk factors include being born prematurely, having low birth weight. Ethnicity may also play a role as African American, American Indian, and Eskimo babies tend to have a higher risk. Babies who have had cousins or siblings die of SIDS are also more at risk, but this may have more to do with the environment they are in than an actual genetic link.
How can I prevent SIDS?
I know all of this is scary stuff and hard things to think about. I know you want to protect your baby, but unfortunately, we just don’t know enough about SIDS to stop it from happening. There are steps you can take though to reduce your baby’s risk:
1. Place your baby to sleep on her back every time. Your baby should sleep on her back every time she goes to sleep. This includes during nap time. You should not allow your baby to sleep in a car seat, swing, or bouncer, especially at night or any time you may be sleeping. On occasion doctors will suggest that babies sleep elevated because of a medical condition, such as reflux. In that case you need to use something specifically designed for sleeping and again, only if your doctor recommends it. There are wedges specifically designed for use in cribs to slightly elevate the baby’s head.
2. Place your baby on a firm surface to sleep. No, I don’t mean hard, but she should not be on a couch or adult bed. She needs to be on a firm infant mattress. This can be either in a play yard, bassinet, or crib.
3. Every baby should sleep in her own crib. I am sorry for this one, but every baby should sleep alone in her own crib. Yes, unfortunately this means if you have twins or triplets or more you have to buy more than one bed.
4. Make sure your baby’s head and face are uncovered. Keeping the crib uncluttered will help with this, but never place a blanket over your baby’s head for any reason.
5. Keep loose items out of the crib. These can increase the risk of suffocation if your baby gets her face up against them. This means no bumper pads, stuffed animals, comforters, quilts, or pillows, at least until they are over a year old.
6. Baby should sleep in clothing meant for sleep. Infant sleepers are made to be snug for a reason, to help prevent sudden death. Babies should sleep in clothes meant for sleeping and the proper size, meaning that it is snug, but not too tight.
7. Use blanket sleepers instead of blankets. If you are afraid your baby is cold, blanket sleepers are a great solution, and much safer than using loose blankets. you can also use swaddlers such as the HALO SleepSack or SwaddleMe blankets which are designed for safe sleep.
8. Baby should sleep in the same room, but NOT the same bed. Babies can sleep in the same room as mom and dad, but not in the same bed. This ensures mom and dad can hear the baby, but eliminated the risk of rolling over on the baby. There are many ways to share a room with your baby. You can have the crib in your room, or you can invest in many different safe co-sleepers.
9. Do not let your baby get too hot. Keep her room at a comfortable temperature. Also, you do not have to use swaddlers or blanket sleepers. If you are comfortable, your baby will be comfortable.
10. Offer a pacifier. Do not force your baby to take a pacifier, but if she will take one offer it to her at bedtime and nap time.
11. Breastfeed, if you can for as long as you can.
12. Schedule and go to every well visit. Some people think that vaccines are responsible for SIDS, but this is a myth, and in fact, the opposite is true; getting vaccines as scheduled can prevent sudden death.
13. Keep baby away from smokers. I don’t think I need to explain this one.
Make sure that everyone who is taking care of your baby knows all of these rules and follows all of them, especially putting your baby on her back to sleep. Many people will argue that you yourself slept on your stomach as a baby, and that is true, but it is because we did not know as much about SIDS back then. We used to think that putting a baby on her belly to sleep would prevent her from choking, which again is not the case.
Since the initiation of the back to sleep campaign, the rate of SIDS has declined by 50%, this is enough for me to follow all of these guidelines.
Be sure to pin the infographic so you can share it with your friends and family, or even just to have as a reference for yourself!
What if I have more questions about SIDS?
If you have additional questions about SIDS there are several resources that can help. Your number one resource should be your pediatrician, they can help you in any way and guide you in the right direction. Some other resources include: NICHD, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Healthy Children.
You can also ask questions here if you want, I understand that sometimes you don’t feel comfortable asking your doctors questions (though, there is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to your kids health!). I will answer the question if I know the answer, or I will try to find the answer (even if I have to ask my pediatrician).
Do you have any questions?
**If you would like to use this infographic on your site, please let me know, but please do not just take the image! Thank you in advance for respecting my work.**