Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

by Medical Group of Pennsylvania

Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Whether you are welcoming your first bundle of joy or adding on to your party of five, the first few months of your baby’s life are a wonderful but nerve-wracking time. A topic of particular concern is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or SIDS). In 2016, there were 1,500 deaths in the United States caused by SIDS, 90% of those cases occurring in infants under 6 months old.

Recent research is revealing more ways than ever to reduce your child's risk. Read on to learn how to keep your baby safe.

Lay Them Back to Sleep

The key is putting your baby down on his or her back. Back-sleeping increases a baby's access to fresh air and makes him or her less likely to get overheated. Some parents may worry babies can choke sleeping on their backs, but rest easy. Babies’ anatomy and gag reflex prevents them from choking while sleeping on their backs. It’s important to always lay babies on their backs, even for short naps. Babies accustomed to sleeping on their backs who are placed on their sides or stomach become more likely to suffer SIDS.

Create a Safe Sleeping Environment

It’s important that your baby has a firm sleep surface, preferably approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covered by a fitted sheet. Your baby should not sleep in bed with you, rather keep your infant’s crib in your bedroom until he or she is at least six months old. It’s also important to keep items that could smother your baby out of the crib -- this includes stuffed animals, blankets and pillows.

Watch the Temperature

Colder weather is linked to an increase in SIDS cases. Well-meaning parents use blankets or extra clothes on infants to keep them warm, but over-bundling may cause infants to overheat, increasing their risk for SIDS, according to the National Institutes of Health. If a blanket must be used, it should reach no higher than the baby's chest and be tucked in under the crib mattress.

Avoid Smoking Around the Baby

Women who smoke during their pregnancy increase their baby’s risk of SIDS. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that infants exposed to secondhand smoke are also at greater risk for SIDS. Chemicals in cigarettes appear to affect the brain’s regulation of breathing.

Know Who is at Risk

Three out of five SIDS victims are boys. African-American and Native American infants are two to three times more prone to the syndrome. Other groups at increased risk include preemies, low-birthweight babies and infants who are exposed to cigarette smoke.

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