Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for Your Baby

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) affects more than 2,000 children and their families each year. Typically, babies who develop SIDS range from one month to one year of age, and are otherwise healthy infants.

The devastation that comes from losing a child to SIDS makes prevention a goal for most health care organizations and medical researchers. To date, no one knows the exact cause of SIDS, but continuous research indicates new findings.

As new insight is discovered, new guidelines are created for parents of infants under the age of one. Generally, it is accepted that after your child is able to roll over on his or her own, the chance of developing SIDS is virtually eliminated. Until that time, however, the following guidelines and tips can help you make sure your child has the best possible chance to avoid this terrible circumstance.

What is SIDS and how is it caused?

SIDS happens when infants experience trouble breathing, which can be caused by a wide variety of reasons. They are then not able to move sufficiently to restart the breathing process. Medical researchers believe this is because some children are born with an arousal center in their brain that has not fully developed yet. In other words, these infants lack the ability to wake themselves up when they have trouble breathing.

Infants sleeping on their stomachs suffer typically more from SIDS, because babies in this position do not have the ability to move and continue to breathe when their oxygen becomes depleted. A researcher with the National Institute of Health reports the most dangerous age when this can occur is between two and four months. However, most experts urge parents to be vigilant about infants sleeping on their stomachs until they reach one year of age.

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A majority of the SIDS cases reported are male infants of Native American or African American descent. However, SIDS may be a greater risk for your child as well, if your child:

  • Was born prematurely.
  • Had at a low birth weight.
  • Was exposed to cigarette smoke, either because you smoked or someone living with you smoked.

By the time a child turns six months of age, even those within these risk groups should have mastered the skill of turning over on his or her own. This greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. Until then, there are several actions you can take to keep your baby safe from SIDS.

Lay the Baby on His or Her Back to Sleep

Because most infants lack the ability to flip themselves over, it is best to put your baby to sleep on his or her back until one year of age. This includes when you are putting your child down for a quick nap. With this position, there is less likely to be an obstruction or breathing difficulty. A good way to make sure your child remains in this position is to roll up several soft blankets and place them beside the baby, positioning them on either side. It is important to make sure that you position the blankets by the child’s torso, and not his or her face.

Forget the Fluffy Bedding and Cute Toys

Until your child can turn over on his or her own, blankets, bumpers and cuddly toys can be a hazard. Instead of these items, cover the mattress with a fitted sheet and make sure to clothe your baby well enough that he or she does not need a blanket.

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Crib bumpers are beautiful, but until your child is older, they can pose a suffocation hazard. Soft surfaces, such as waterbeds, pillows, quilts or a couch also are dangerous for babies. Many new parents opt to use a car seat, infant swing, carrier or stroller for their children to sleep in. However, even this poses a strangulation hazard, so it is better to avoid making these devices your child’s regular sleeping area.

Breastfeeding Can Reduce SIDS

Aside from the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding your child, researchers believe babies who receive breastmilk are at a lower risk of developing SIDS. This is true even if you are feeding breastmilk as well as formula. The new study indicates even doing so for as little as two months after birth can drastically reduce the risk of SIDS. These numbers are significant. For example, children who are breastfed for four to six months have a reduction of SIDS by 60 percent. At longer than six months, the survival rate increases to 74 percent.

Feed Your Baby in Bed Wisely

Many new mothers place a bassinet next to the bed to facilitate night feedings. However, falling asleep while your baby is in the bed with you increases the risk of sleep-related SIDS for your child. To avoid this, make a point of staying awake while you feed your child, then return him or her back to the bassinet or crib. Babies should not sleep in an adult bed or be placed on a couch and left unattended. Additionally, do not allow pets to cuddle or lie next to your baby until your child is old enough to turn over on his or her own, and you are supervising.

Offer a Pacifier for Sleep-time

Once you have a regular breastfeeding or bottle feeding routine, remember to place a pacifier in your baby’s mouth while he or she sleeps. This also seems to reduce the number of SIDS cases. However, it is important not to force the baby to use it. If the pacifier does fall out while the child is sleeping, just leave it out. Moreover, do not attach the pacifier to anything such as a string or cord as it can pose a choking or strangulation hazard.

Keep the Temperature Steady

Sometimes SIDS happens because the child becomes overheated. To prevent this, dress your baby in sufficient clothing to keep him or her warm, but not overly warm. Over-bundling can cause a baby to overheat. If you are not certain if you have dressed your baby accordingly, check after an hour or two to see if he or she is sweating, or if his or her chest feels hot to the touch. You also want to avoid the old practice of swaddling. It has been found to increase the risk of SIDS slightly, as it can lead to overheating. Babies can also get their faces and noses wrapped in the folds and suffocate.

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