Reducing the Risk of SIDS in Your Baby
October is SIDS Awareness month, and I would be remiss not to address it. The death of a child is every parent’s deepest fear. There are so many things that we can’t control in our children’s lives, but when it comes to infants, there are things that we can do to help reduce the risk of SIDS occurring. That said, I want to stress that if you have lost a child to SIDS, you are not at fault. Even with the best precautions, sometimes, we can’t control everything that happens to our children.
SIDS is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The peak ages for it to occur are between 0-9 months. We don’t know what causes it, but we do know what helps to prevent it:
Always have your baby sleep on his back. I must admit that this feels counterintuitive to me as a pediatrician. Many parents feel the same. We worry that a baby sleeping on his back might choke, but evidence suggests that it is safer for babies to sleep on their backs than on their tummies. So make sure that you do this. A few years ago, we recommended putting babies on their sides or backs but the American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its position. It is no longer considered as safe to place babies on their sides, so keep yours on his back.
It is important to make sure that your baby has “tummy time” when he is awake and lying on the living room floor with you. This will help his motor development.
Always put your baby on a hard sleeping surface. Many parents like to have their babies sleep in bed with them, but this is dangerous. Babies don’t have good head control and can suffocate on soft mattresses, sheets, or blankets, or be smothered by parents. They can get caught between a mattress and a wall.
The best thing to do to stay close to your baby is to place her crib next to your bed with the side down. That way, you can be next to her but she will be on her crib mattress, which is firmer than yours. Make sure to keep any materials that can get in her way out of the crib: bumper pads, blankets, or pillows. To make sure that she doesn’t get cold, bundle her in warm pajamas.
Breast feed as long as you can. Evidence shows that breast feeding is protective against SIDS in babies. We don’t know why, but breast feeding has been shown to help. So, if you are able, breast feed as long as you can.
Immunize your baby! Research suggests that immunizing your baby may reduce his risk of SIDS by 50%. Many parents are frightened of immunizations because of many stories and “research” that has surfaced on the internet. My recommendation regarding immunizations and medical issues is to only read credible sources, such as the CDC, WebMD, or the VAERS (vaccine adverse events report). Immunizations are very important for babies, particularly in the first two years of life.
Use a pacifier. Believe it or not, pacifiers have been shown to have a protective effect against SIDS. Not only are they soothing for babies, but they can be potentially lifesaving, so go ahead and use them.
Don’t use cardio-respiratory monitors. Some parents feel that using a heart rate monitor will help reduce their baby’s risk of dying. This has not been show to be true and in fact, these monitors can cause parents undue anxiety. Use an intercom system so that you can hear your baby or keep the baby in your room.
Watch Baby’s temperature. Babies must stay cool during the night, and it is important to make sure that your baby doesn’t get overheated.
Avoid smoking and alcohol. Studies show that smoking or drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of SIDS in infants, so be sure to avoid these.
Get good prenatal care. Going to your obstetrician for regular checkups during pregnancy can reduce the risk of SIDS for your baby. You want your doctor to prescribe prenatal vitamins and give you regular physical exams to be sure that your baby is healthy.
For more information on SIDS or to read more extensively on how to reduce the risk of SIDS, go to the American of Academy of Pediatrics website: www.aap.org.
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