SIDS and What You Need to Know
SIDS. A word that strikes fear into every parent's heart. It stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and generally affects children under the age of 1. Generally it happens when the child is sleeping, so sometimes it is referred to as crib death. Experts are still not clear of the exact cause of SIDS, but through research they have been able to pinpoint certain things that help lower risks.
According to this article here on WebMD, there are a few things you can do that will lower the risk of SIDS.
Put the child to sleep on his or her back.
It has been well documented that children that are put to sleep on their sides and stomachs, especially while swaddled, are at a greater risk for SIDS. Children may roll over after you place them on their backs, but it is believed that if they are old enough to roll over, they should not be swaddled, and it is considered safe for them to roll into a different sleeping position. Since the Back to Sleep initiative was put into place in 1994, SIDS has decreased by half.
Put the child to sleep on a firm mattress.
Softer beds, such as adult mattresses, are a hazard for infants. Make sure that the crib mattress you purchase is firm. It is advised that such things as wedges and other sleeping aids should not be used preventatively. A firm mattress is the best and safest surface for babies to sleep on.
*For more information on how to choose the best mattress check out our post How to Choose the Right Crib Mattress in 3 Easy Steps.
Put the child to sleep in close proximity to you, but not in the same bed.
According to studies, the closer in proximity the child sleeps to his or her parents, the less risk for SIDS. It is thought that the mother can sense if her child is in distress if they are in close proximity. It is also advised not to co-sleep with the infant. This also goes back to the previous point about the firmness of the mattress used. Adult mattresses are softer and the adult bed usually has other blankets and pillows that may pose a risk to the infant.
Breastfeed as long as you can.
It is not understood why this plays a factor in decreasing the risk for SIDS, but the longer and more frequent the infant is breastfed, the lower the chances for SIDS.
*If you are struggling with breastfeeding, don't feel bad! If you are planning on continuing to breastfeed we have a post on 3 Breastfeeding Tips for That First Week that will help any one out!
Give your child a pacifier when laying them down to bed for naps and at night.
Again, it is not understood why this plays a role in decreasing SIDS. The pacifier can be given when putting the child down for bed and naps, but if the infant lets go of the pacifier during sleep, it does not need to be placed back in the infant's mouth.
No blankets, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers should be in the crib.
These extra things in the crib pose a risk of suffocation. The infant may roll onto the soft material and not be able to turn their heads to breathe if they get stuck. It is advised to dress the child in something that would be comfortable for the parent, temperature wise, and if extra warm clothing is needed, you can layer a onesie underneath breathable jammies. You can also use a sleep sack, which is a wearable blanket, but do not put extra blankets, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers in your infant's crib.
Only swaddle until the baby can break out of it, (between 2-6 months).
The most recent studies that have been published about SIDS deal with swaddling. It was found that swaddling can be a hazard if the child is old enough to break out of the swaddle, usually between the ages of 2-6 months. After that, the infant should be placed in comfortable and breathable pajamas.
Do not smoke when pregnant, and do not let the baby be around smokers.
Although it is well documented that smoking while pregnant, and second-hand smoke, is dangerous for infants and children, it is a common factor for infants who suffer from SIDS and the exact reason is unknown. If you are pregnant and are a smoker, there are resources dedicated to helping you quit. Reach out to your OBGYN or local hospital for more information.
Stay up on immunizations and well-child visits to the doctor.
This is important for the doctor to be able to check on the growth and overall health of your baby during these visits. Your doctor can help detect issues early on and get you help that you need before it becomes a more difficult issue.
Help your baby avoid overheating.
Overheating is a factor that is also unknown as to why it increases the risk of SIDS. Especially in these hot summer months, make sure that when you are putting your baby to bed, that they are comfortable and are not using a blanket. This is also an important factor to keep in mind when driving. Never leave your infant in a car alone. Check on them often. Muslin is a great fabric for swaddles if your infant is young, and cotton pajamas if your infant has outgrown the swaddling phase.
Avoid giving honey to your infant.
This means do not put honey on the pacifier, or in any other foods your infant may consume. Honey runs the risk of containing botulism spores (tiny, heat-resistant versions of the botulism organism) and botulism has been tied to SIDS, although the reasons are still not known.