What We Know About SIDS
SIDS is a parent’s worst nightmare.
Every year, 2,500 babies in the United States silently die, with no clear cause.
What makes SIDS so scary is the mystery surrounding it. No one knows exactly why or how these babies die.
Most people think that SIDS means a baby suffocated in his crib, but the truth is that suffocation and strangulation are a very small part of SIDS. Research is now suggesting that babies who die from SIDS were born with brain defects – the parts of the brain that control breathing and arousal from sleep don’t function properly.
Babies who have a low birth weight can be particularly susceptible to this because it’s more likely that a tiny baby’s brain hasn’t finished developing, so the processes of breathing and heart rate may not be in peak working order.
Also, many babies who died from SIDS had just gotten over a cold, so there is thought that respiratory infections may play a role in SIDS.
Here’s What We Know About SIDS:
- It’s not just about suffocation, it’s probable that brain function plays a role
- A baby does not have to be sleeping to die from SIDS
- SIDS peaks between 2-4 months but can happen any time during the first year of life
- SIDS occurs slightly more in male infants
- SIDS occurs more often during the colder months of the year
- SIDS is more common in African American, American Indian, and Alaskan Native babies
What Raises the Chance of a Baby Dying From SIDS
- Sleeping on his stomach or side. Sometimes mothers will tell me that their baby will only sleep well on her stomach. That’s no excuse. Honestly. Hate me if you want, but it’s no excuse. Better not to sleep for a few months than to run the risk of losing a baby to SIDS. Stomach and side sleeping are the number one risk for SIDS.
- Sleeping in the same bed as a parent. Adult beds are not safe places for babies. Babies as young as two weeks can roll off the bed, or suffocate if a sleeping parent rolls over or even accidentally covers the baby’s nose or mouth. Babies can get trapped and suffocate between the headboard and the mattress, or between the mattress and the wall. Every parent thinks this would never happen to their baby, but sadly, it has.
- Sleeping on a soft mattress, or having pillows, blankets or stuffed animals in the crib
- Overheating is big risk factor. If your baby’s cheeks are flushed or his hair is sweaty, he is too warm.
- Using wedges, crib positioners or rolled up blankets to keep your baby in place are all suffocation risks and should be avoided.
Steps To Take to Reduce the Risk of SIDS
SIDS is not preventable, but there are things that you can do to reduce the risk. In my non-medical opinion, if you’re not doing every single one these things, you’re making a terrible, terrible mistake.
I know you’re tired, I know you’re exhausted, and I know we live in a world that loses it’s head when someone gets judgy about someone else’s parenting. But. This. Is. Your. Baby’s. life. We’re. Talking. About.
- Back to sleep. Your baby should never, ever sleep on his stomach or side. Always lay your baby down to sleep on her back. This has been the number one thing that has proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. Once your baby can roll over both ways on his own, it’s ok to let him roll into his stomach if he chooses to. When other people watch your baby, assume that they don’t know the safe sleeping position for a baby. INSIST that anyone watching your baby always put him to sleep on his back.
- Your baby’s crib should be bare. Pillows, blankets, bumpers (even mesh ones), sheepskins and stuffed animals all pose a suffocation risk for your baby. If you’re worried that your baby is cold, a wearable blanket can be a great solution.
- Don’t let your baby get overheated. Only dress your baby in one layer more than you are wearing. Flushed cheeks, a warm neck, and sweaty hair are all signs that your baby is too warm.
- Share a room, not a bed. For the first 6 months of life, the AAP advises that you share a room with your baby, as this has shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. The key is to share a room, not a bed – bringing your baby into your bed increases the risk of SIDS.
- Breastfeed for at least 6 months, if you can. This has shown to lower the risk of SIDS.
- Offer a pacifier for all sleeping times – this also has been shown to reduce the risk.
- Don’t fall for any monitors, breathing machines or any devices that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. You’re wasting your money and creating safety risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of such devices because they are a. ineffective b. can cause safety issues (exactly what we’re trying to avoid here).
Do all you can to make sure that your baby has a sleep safe environment. Your number one priority as a parent is your baby’s physical safety – and he has no one to rely on that but you. The exhaustion will pass, it will. Don’t allow fatigue to get in the way of your baby’s safety. You can do this, Mama.