Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is a syndrome that is rare, but it is one of the common causes of death in infants before the age of one year. Typically, the baby seems healthy when the parent puts her down for a nap. When the baby does not cry in the time expected, the parent returns and finds the infant dead in her crib. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a devastating event for a family. While the exact cause is not known, there are certain things that may predispose your baby to SIDS. Read to learn what you should do to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
What Is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome is the leading cause for death among babies from 1 month old to 1 year old, of which 90% of cases are among kids younger than 6 months. A SIDS death happens to apparently healthy infants and usually happens between 1 and 4 months of age. The diagnosis of SIDS is the diagnosis that is applied to an infant’s death in which no other cause can be determined. The diagnosis cannot be made if the child had a medical condition that might have caused the death. SIDS deaths usually happen at night, but they can occur at any time of the day or night.
What Causes SIDS?
Although the exact cause of SIDS is not known, there are a number of factors that may contribute to sudden infant death.
- Occasionally, an autopsy will indicate that the part of the brain that controls breathing may not function normally.
- Premature babies, or babies that are one of a multiple birth, may have less well developed brain particularly the area that controls breathing.
- There may be a relationship between a recent upper respiratory infection and SIDS.
- Infants who sleep on their stomachs or sides are more prone to have breathing difficulties than those who sleep on their backs.
- Infants who sleep on soft surfaces may be more prone to SIDS as the baby’s airway can become blocked more easily.
- Sharing the parents’ bed may contribute to SIDS since those beds are typically softer than a baby’s crib.
What Are the Risk Factors of SIDS?
Many of the same factors that may contribute to SIDS are also risk factors for SIDS. However, there are also some other risk factors that have been identified in the research:
- Low birth weight – the lower the birth weight the higher the risk;
- Birth to mother under the age of 20;
- Birth of multiple siblings in a short period of time;
- Gender – Boys seem to have a slightly higher risk of SIDS than girls;
- Ethnicity – Alaskan natives, native Americans and African Americans are twice as likely to have SIDS than a Caucasian child;
- Infants who have had incidents of breathing difficulties, especially if the incident required resuscitation of the infant, have a higher incidence of SIDS.
How to Lower the Risks of SIDS?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that there are certain things you can do to lower the risks of SIDS for your infant.
1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle While Pregnant
Be sure that you have a healthy life style during your pregnancy. Get prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant. Avoid using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco while you are pregnant. After the baby is born, keep her away from tobacco smoke. Second and third-hand smoke will increase the risk of SIDS for your infant.
2. Let the Baby Sleep on His/ Her Back
Probably the most important thing you can do is put your infant to sleep on his back. Until your baby can turn himself over, it is important to put him down on his back rather than his side or his belly. Once he can turn over, the risk of SIDS is dropping. At that point, it is more important to choose his bedding so that his crib does not pose a risk.
3. Choose Bedding Carefully
The mattress of the crib should be firm with a sheet and thin mattress pad over the mattress. Comforters, quilts, soft mattresses, beanbag chairs, waterbeds and softer mattresses have been linked to a higher incidence of sudden infant death. Do not use crib bumpers since these devices may increase the risk of strangulation or suffocation. Of course, you should also be sure that the slats on your infant’s crib are close enough together that his head cannot be wedged between the slats.
4. Do Not Overheat Your Baby
Be sure to dress your infant to keep him warm enough that a blanket is not necessary. Typically, this means that your infant should be dressed in no one more layer than is comfortable for you. Overheating may be related to SIDS. Check for signs like damp hair and sweating.
5. Sleep in the Same Room with Your Child
For the first six months of the infant’s life, have her sleep in your room – but not in your bed. An infant in respiratory problems will usually make noise that will awaken you if you are in the same room.
6. Pay Attention to Naps
While a quick nap sitting up happens occasionally, be sure to move the infant to a lying position so that his head does not roll forward and obstruct his airway.
7. Breastfeed Your Infant
Breastfeed until the infant is at least six months old if you are able. There seems to be a positive correlation between breastfeeding and a lower incidence of SIDS.
8. Other Remedies
- For the first year, encourage your baby to use a pacifier at night. Although researchers do not know why, there seems to be a lower incidence of sudden infant death in babies who use pacifiers during sleep.
- Research shows that vaccination of the infant can cut the incidence of SIDS in half. Be sure to vaccinate your child as recommended by your pediatrician.