Approximately 3500 infants die annually in the United States from sleep-related infant deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the term for the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation, including:
- An autopsy.
- Examination of the death scene.
- Review of any symptoms or illnesses the infant experienced before dying.
- Any other important medical history.
Because SIDS occurs while an infant is sleeping, it is often referred to as “crib death”. However, cribs are not responsible for SIDS.
What Impacts SIDS?
While medical professionals still do not know what causes SIDS, there are theories that SIDS victims have an immature arousal center in the brain. This means that the infants affected are not able to wake themselves up if they have difficulty breathing during sleep. Experts do know that:
- Most SIDS deaths occur when an infant is between 2 and 4 months old.
- African American babies are twice as likely to die from SIDS as white babies.
- More boys die of SIDS than girls.
- A SIDS death happens quickly, with no signs of suffering.
- More SIDS deaths occur in colder months.
- Other groups at increased risk include preemies, low-birthweight babies, and infants who are exposed to cigarette smoke.
How to Reduce the Risk of SIDS
Before the 1992 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics to place infants on their sides or backs to sleep to reduce SIDS, more than 5,000 babies in the U.S. died from SIDS every year. Since then, as tummy sleeping has declined, that number has been reduced to less than 3,000 each year. Below is a list of recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Always place your baby to sleep on their back.
Back sleeping increases a baby’s access to fresh air and makes them less likely to get overheated (which is believed to be another cause of SIDS). In a survey done by Parents magazine, eighteen percent of readers said they usually put their infants to sleep on their stomach, and another 13 percent do so some of the time. Every time counts when you are putting your child to sleep, even just for short naps. It is not worth the risk of letting them sleep on their stomachs or sides.
Place your baby on a firm surface.
Never place your baby to sleep on pillows, quilts, sheepskins or other soft surfaces. Ensure that the crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard meet current safety standards.
Do not cover your baby with a blanket.
Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins or pillowlike crib bumpers in your baby’s sleep area, and keep all other items away from your baby’s face. These items can hinder your child’s breathing. If you are worried that they may get chilly, use a swaddle or sleep sack. According to a Belgian study, swaddling helps fussy infants sleep better on their back and may protect them from SIDS by causing them to startle more easily.
Consider a pacifier.
Binkies actually reduce the risk of SIDS, possibly by preventing babies from falling into an extremely deep sleep. However, if you are breastfeeding, wait until your child is at least one month old and has a firm grasp on nursing before introducing a pacifier to their sleep routine.
Don’t allow smoking around your baby.
Additionally, keep your baby from any public places where smoking could be present. Secondhand smoke exposure can significantly increase your baby’s chance of SIDS.
Consult a Doctor
If you have any questions about how to best put your baby to sleep, we can help. At Community Access Network, we provide complete pediatric care from infancy to adolescence. No appointment is needed, and we never turn anyone away.