How to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS
Since the start of the Back to Sleep Campaigns to combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, there has been quite a bit of noise made about how you should put your child to sleep at night. Some companies have developed new products and claimed that they are guaranteed to help babies sleep safely and can help prevent the condition, but SIDS cannot be prevented by the purchase of special contraptions or alarms.
Things you can do that have been associated with lowering a baby’s risk:
– Make sure that your child sleeps at a comfortable temperature – not too high, and not too low. Overheating during sleep is tied to SIDS, but being too cold may make a minor infection worse. The ideal temperature for babies to sleep is from about 65 to 70° F (or 18 to 21° C).
– Do not smoke near a sleeping infant, or in their sleeping environment. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke can lead to oxygen deprivation in a baby.
– Do not use pillows, blankets, or comforters for your child until they are able to move freely on their own (1 – 1.5 years is a good time to begin to introduce these items). If it is cold, use a warm sleeper and/or sleep sack.
– Sleep in the same room as your baby until they reach at least 6 months of age so that you can tune in to breathing changes. Studies have shown that children who sleep in their parent’s room until this age are significantly less likely to experience SIDS (note: the SIDS prevention effect is only noted when parents, not another family member, share the room with an infant).
– Do not use devices that restrict your child’s movement in their crib or bassinet.
– Do not use crib bumpers or place stuffed animals in the crib or sleeping area of an infant.
– Do not use sleep positioners that elevate your child or are made of non-breathable fabrics. Infants may become trapped between the sleep positioner and the crib mattress, leading to suffocation. There are certain sleep positioners and other products that may be acceptable, but always discuss their use with your child’s pediatrician before using them and be sure to follow their advice.
– Breastfeed if you can – it decreases the likelihood for gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, as well as SIDS.
– Keep your child away from individuals with respiratory infections – SIDS sometimes occurs in conjunction with respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.
– Use a fan in your baby’s room to keep air circulating.
– Make sure that the mattress your baby sleeps on is firm.
Other things you should look out for that could be related to the risk of SIDS:
– If your baby snores, have them tested for sleep apnea, a condition that may cause them to stop breathing during sleep.
– If your child spits up and has trouble breathing afterwards, discuss this with your pediatrician.
– If your child occasionally goes limp, turns blue, or has periods of not breathing call your pediatrician immediately.
The steps listed above are designed to help reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and education and awareness of them have helped to drastically reduce the number of cases of SIDS. Note that if your baby has certain medical conditions, your pediatrician may make a recommendation that seems to go against some of this advice. Always listen to your child’s doctor, but of course get a second opinion if you have any concerns that are not addressed.
There are many factors that have been linked to SIDS, and the condition is still being studied. In some cases, it is entirely unpreventable. Regardless of the circumstances it is heartbreaking and tragic. If you have lost a child to SIDS or know someone who has, do not hold anyone to blame. Sometimes SIDS occurs for seemingly no reason at all. The recommendations summarized in this book are to help you reduce your baby’s probability of being affected as much as possible.