Awareness of SIDS Can Help Protect Babies
Raising awareness about Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) should include a review safe sleep practices for babies.
Since 1994, when the Back to Sleep Campaign was initiated, SIDS deaths have decreased by 50 percent, in part because caregivers and parents were encouraged parents to put babies into their sleeping spaces on their backs.
This improvement is good news, but SIDS and other sleep-related deaths were thought to be the cause of at least 3,700 infant deaths in 2015, and SIDS remains the leading cause of death for infants ages 1 to 12 months.
SIDS is the death of an infant that can’t be explained, and it’s not the same as suffocation, vomiting or choking. It is not caused by a contagious disease, a lack of immunizations or child abuse. While we know a lot about what SIDS is not, experts aren’t completely sure what causes it, and therefore it may not be completely preventable.
But there are ways to reduce the risk, especially for those babies who may already have risk factors for SIDS.
To reduce the risk, follow these guidelines:
- Babies should always sleep on their backs, unless directed otherwise by a medical professional.
- Mothers should breast feed if possible.
- Keep smoke away from babies. If you or other family members or friends smoke, do so outside of the house. Wear a jacket or coat and a hat while smoking and then leave them in the garage. Wash your hands, arms and face before holding the baby. The harmful chemicals from cigarettes can remain on clothing, skin and hair. When you hold the baby, he or she can breathe in these chemicals if these precautions are not taken.
- There is some evidence that pacifier use can reduce the risk of SIDS.
Considering the Environment
Parents and caregivers must think carefully about the room where baby sleeps, as well as the crib or other sleep surface on which the little ones lie.
In the past years, new evidence shows a reduced rate of SIDS in babies who sleep in a room with their parents for at least six months. Babies should sleep in a separate and approved crib or equivalent, such as a play yard or bassinet. It should come with a firm mattress and be located near the parents’ bed.
This is a good time to remind all parents: Babies do not belong in the parents’ bed. Studies cannot prove that co-sleeping is safe, and it should be avoided, along with in-the-bed sleepers, bassinettes or baby boxes.
Keep the room cool and well-ventilated.
The Crib Itself
Be sure the crib you use is certified as safe, especially considering that safety standards were changed in 2011. Cribs manufactured before then may not meet the safest requirements by law. Caregivers should use extra caution when considering the purchase of a used crib or when they are thinking of borrowing one for a nap. No matter what, a drop-side crib should never be used; they are illegal and unsafe.
Make sure the crib mattress is firm and fits the space snuggly, and make sure to use caution when considering a borrowed or used mattress. Parents should not include padded “bumpers” in the crib; they are not recommended because of potential suffocation risks.
Additional steps caretakers and parents can take include clearing the crib of clutter. The only things in the crib should be a tightly fitted sheet and the baby. Additional things to consider include:
- Leave stuffed animals, blankets, toys, sheepskins and other items out of the crib.
- Use caution when purchasing items that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Most of them do not work, and some of them are dangerous. Sleep positioners and wedges are not recommended.
- Babies should not sleep in baby swings, rock-and-plays, bouncers or baby car seats.
- Take your baby to your health care provider for regular well-baby visits and stay up to date on immunizations.
- Many hospitals, research agencies and organizations continue to work to improve the health and safety of all children. By using October to raise awareness – to remind ourselves of ways to reduce the risk of SIDS – we can continue hopes for nothing but sweet dreams for babies in their slumber.