Protecting Your Baby From Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Published in Wellness, Pediatrics

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics introduced the recommendation that all infants should sleep on their backs. Since then, there has been a decrease in the amount of infant deaths caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Unfortunately there has been an increase in sleep-related deaths caused by things that are considered preventable. What can you do to help reduce the risk of SIDS?

Back to Sleep

Infants should always sleep on their back and on a firm, flat surface, so the best place for your baby to sleep is in the crib. If your baby should fall asleep in an infant seat, they should be moved to their crib to sleep. Mother’s often ask me why they can’t just let their baby nap where they fall asleep and I tell them that if they are left sleeping in places like their infant seat, especially if they have just eaten, the chances of throwing up increases. There is not enough room in those spaces for baby to move their head so this increases the chance of choking. The safest place for baby is in the crib lying on their back.

Making the crib safe

Your baby’s crib should meet current safety standards and should not have any sliding parts, buttons or doors. Inside the crib there should be nothing except the baby and the mattress should be firm, not soft. Remove all objects like bumper pads, pillows, blankets and toys that your baby could choke or suffocate on. This risk of suffocation is very high if there are soft materials in the crib with your baby. Your baby should also be dressed appropriately, not too warm and not too cold. Do not use wraps and wedges that are made to position the baby in the crib; they should sleep on their back.

Tummy Time

Because your baby will spend many hours sleeping on their back, it is important to give the appropriate amount of tummy time while awake to avoid the flattening of the head in the back. If there is not enough tummy time, your baby might need to wear a helmet for up to six months, depending on the severity, to correct the shape of the head.

What room should my baby sleep in?

For infants that are less than one year of age, it is preferable that they sleep in the same room as mom and dad, in their own crib, so that they can be quickly attended to. There are monitoring devices that can be used for babies in other rooms but they are not recommended. Your baby is much safer when in the same room.

Is it ok to let my baby sleep with me?

NO! If you are letting your baby sleep with you, it is an accident waiting to happen and I recommend that you stop right now. Even with the best sense that baby is sleeping with you, there is a danger that you might roll over and suffocate your baby. I have seen disastrous outcomes because a parent rolled over on their baby. It is a terrible thing to have happen and is completely preventable. Babies MUST NOT sleep in their parents beds!

Breastfeeding and Immunizations

Breastfeeding is not only good for your baby’s health, but studies have shown that breastfeeding decreases the incidence of SIDS. Breastfeeding is good for mom too so it is a win/win for everyone!

Immunizations are also important because a properly immunized baby has less risk of SIDS. Most immunizations are associated with illnesses. For example, let’s talk about Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough. Pertussis is a disease that is really just a cough, but for an infant this can be very dangerous because they can cough so much that it becomes difficult or impossible to breathe and can even die. Whooping cough is passed on to infants by adults because most adults aren’t immunized. Any woman that is of child bearing years should get immunized for whooping cough. Pregnant mothers should also get the vaccine after delivering their baby before they leave the hospital or soon after.

Second-hand smoke

It is dangerous to expose babies to second-hand smoke. Smoke affects the respiratory system and anything that affects the respiratory system can increase the likelihood of SIDS. If there is a smoker that lives with a baby and just can’t quit they should smoke outside, as should guests, to avoid exposure to your baby.

What can expectant moms do?

The most important thing that mothers can do is to be ready for the pregnancy before it happens. All immunizations should be up-to-date for both mothers and fathers to decrease the risk of passing on any type of infection to their baby. Expectant mothers should also attend all prenatal visits. The purpose of prenatal visits is to find out if any problems or abnormalities are present that can be detected before birth. Each prenatal visit is designed to check for different problems so if mom goes to all of the visits, she is more likely to have a healthy baby.

The incidence of SIDS is not necessarily higher where we live but our children are exposed to more germs from coughs and colds which can increase the incidence of SIDS. Parents should make sure that their babies are immunized on time and that children attend all doctor visits as they are recommended.