SIDS is an acronym which stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is the unexplained death of sleeping infants that sometimes occurs in babies at some point before their first birthday. There are no warning signs of SIDS and affected babies appear to be healthy.
The cause of SIDS is not clear but it is believed that infants are sometimes unable to wake themselves when they are in trouble and succumb to asphyxiation. Around 90% of deaths occur within the first six months of life when babies are at their most vulnerable. Statistics show that certain ethnic backgrounds appear to be at higher risk than others but all babies are at some degree of risk.
Since there is no way to detect SIDS and the cause of it is unknown, all measures to prevent it are based on statistic evidence that shows which practices increase or decrease the occurrence of SIDS. The single most important factor appears to be the infant's sleep position. The American SIDS institute has shown that babies who are placed on their tummy to sleep are at 13 times the risk as those babies that are placed on their back.
Parents are urged to follow best practices when putting their babies to bed to reduce the risk to their infants. A large component of safe sleep is attributed to the space where babies do their sleeping. Solid practices and a nursery free from hazards are a priority when it comes to SIDS prevention.
15 The Truth About Pacifiers
The use of pacifiers has long been debated among parents and healthcare professionals. While some swear by their ability to soothe a cranky baby, others warn of adverse effects. Pacifiers have a reputation of becoming a bad habit that can be hard to break. Breastfeeding advocates have warned that pacifier use can impede nursing and some people claim that pacifiers are damaging to teeth.
There may be some truth to a few of these claims, but pacifiers can also be useful in lowering the risk of SIDS. It is estimated that babies who are put to bed with a pacifier are at two-thirds the risk as babies who go to bed without one. It may be that sucking on a pacifier brings the tongue forward opening the airways, or that it creates a pocket of air if a baby rolls onto their tummy. What is most bizarre is that it is not necessary to put the pacifier back in the mouth if it falls out as just putting the baby to bed with the pacifier seems to offer protection.
Pacifiers are not linked to any dental issues as long as they are not used beyond the age of 4. It is recommended that nursing mothers delay introducing the pacifier until breastfeeding is well established as some babies do end up having such a strong preference for the pacifier that they refuse to nurse. On the other hand, some babies simply refuse a pacifier and that's alright too.
14 Is It Hot In Here?
Parents have a tendency to worry that their little ones will be cold in the night, but cranking up the heat on the thermostat may not be the solution. Studies have shown that babies who sleep in an overly warm nursery are at a higher risk of SIDS. While it isn't clear why this is the case, advocates believe that a warm nursery causes babies to sleep more soundly making it more difficult for them to rouse themselves if needed.
How warm is too warm? The ideal temperature for the nursery is one that is comfortable for an adult wearing a short sleeved shirt. Under these conditions a sleeping baby should be perfectly comfortable wearing lightweight footed pajamas with long sleeves.
Make sure you monitor the temperature in your baby's room throughout the night as well as in different weather conditions. Factors such as the furnace or heater, layout of the house, thermostat, and ducts can cause temperature to vary. Invest in good drapery to keep out the drafts or sun and adjust the vents so that they maintain a comfortable temperature.
13 Don't Stray Too Far
While sleeping in the same bed as a parent raises the risk of SIDS for an infant, sleeping in the same room offers some protection. An adult bed is not a safe place for a baby as it is full of loose bedding, soft surfaces, gaps to get stuck in, and adults rolling around. Any parent who has taken the time to set up a safe place for their baby to sleep would quickly realize that their own bed is filled with dangers.
In order to minimize the risks but gain all the benefit, experts recommend that parents have their infants sleep in the same room but in their own bed for the first six months of their life. In the early months it is easy and fairly inexpensive to place a bassinet next to the bed. As the baby grows, it may become necessary to move the crib into the bedroom, or set up a bed for a parent in the nursery.
It isn't fully clear why sleeping in the same room reduces the risk of SIDS. It may be that parents are more inclined to check on their baby when they are in close proximity or that they can sense when their baby is in danger. There is also the possibility that babies don't sleep as soundly when in the same room making it easier for them to wake themselves if needed.
12 Pillow Problems
Since most parents feel more comfortable sleeping with a pillow, it is natural to assume that baby needs a pillow too. However pillows pose several risks to babies and are actually quite hazardous and increase the risk of SIDS quite a bit. Experts advise to avoid pillows for all babies.
Using a pillow makes it possible for a baby to roll off it and end up on their tummy. Not only is it much safer for babies to sleep on their backs to prevent suffocation, the pillow poses an additional hazard in that it is a soft and fluffy surface that's just perfect to bury one's face into and suffocate. Furthermore a pillow can flop over on a baby's face and impede breathing. Even if a baby were to use a pillow correctly while sleeping on their back, it would only serve to push the head forward constricting baby's airways.
Pillows shouldn't be introduced until the child reaches 2-3 years of age. The best time to introduce a pillow is when a toddler graduates from a crib to a bed. Don't be concerned about comfort. It may be more comfortable for you to sleep with a pillow but this doesn't become an issue until a person's shoulders become significantly wider than their head. Since babies have proportionately larger heads they don't actually need a pillow to be comfortable.
11 Where Is Your Crib?
While it is important to ensure that the ambient temperature in the nursery is not too warm, it is equally important to position the crib in a proper location. If the baby sleeps too close to a vent or heater, there may be parts of the night when they are overheated. This is an unsafe situation and can increase the risk of SIDS since overly warm babies have a difficult time waking themselves if they need to.
Not only does placing the crib next to a heat source put the baby at risk of overheating, it can cause other problems as well. Heat will not be able to circulate in the room properly causing the baby to experience alternating cycles of overly warm temperature followed by cold spells. Placing furniture on or near a heat source also increases the risk of fire so make sure that you note your vents and heaters carefully when laying out the nursery.
10 Location, Location, Location!
The safest place for an infant to sleep is on a firm and flat surface that is free from clutter as well as suffocation and strangulation hazards. A proper crib of their own with the the right mattress is the way to keep a baby as safe as possible. SIDS conscious parents should set up a proper sleeping space for their infants and strive for their baby to do all their sleeping there.
Even parents with the best intentions will sometimes find themselves with an infant that has fallen asleep in a car seat, swing, bouncy chair, stroller, or some other space. There is no need for parents to panic if they find their baby snoozing in the car seat miles away from their safe sleeping space. While not ideal, most baby items are designed to offer some level of protection to a sleeping infant.
Although the baby might not be in immediate danger, sleeping in a somewhat upright position puts pressure on the airways making it more difficult for a baby to breathe. In the interest of safety parents should move their infant to their safe sleeping space as soon as it is possible to do so. Until then, let the infant continue sleeping but do monitor their breathing making sure that the head is back and that the airways are open.
9 The Gimmick Gamut
SIDS is a major concern for many parents and there are some who want to take advantage on their fear. The market is flooded with products making claims of reducing the risk of SIDS but many of these products have not undergone proper testing to support those claims. While the manufacturers of these products may have good intentions, and some of these items might possibly offer some degree of protection, many have no effect, and some have even been proven to increase the risk of SIDS.
Motion detecting baby monitors have so far not been linked to a decrease in SIDS, while crib wedges and positioners designed to keep babies on their backs have actually been linked to an increased risk. Legitimate SIDS researchers are always on the lookout for products making SIDS related claims and they put them to the test. They publish their results for all parents to find, so do your research before investing in anything to make sure your purchase isn't going to do more harm than good.
Even products that have been shown to have no adverse effect can sometimes cause harm. It is not fully understood why this is the case but it might simply be that these gimmicks lure parents into a false sense of security allowing them to drop their guard and become complacent when it comes to SIDS safety. No piece of equipment can replace diligence and a parent's careful attention.
8 Softer Isn't Safer
Many commercially available crib mattresses come with an infant side and a toddler side. While the toddler side is not all that different from the mattress a parent might be using, the infant side by comparison is firm and flat. With no extra padding it may seem like an uncomfortable sleeping surface but infant mattresses are designed this way for a reason.
By now most parents have heard of the “Back to Sleep” campaign launched by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1994. This simple recommendation instructs parents to always place their babies on their backs when putting them to bed. It is the single most effective practice at preventing SIDS and the rate of SIDS has dropped by more than 60% since the program has been launched.
An infant that is sleeping on their tummy is pressing their face into the mattress. Poor head control along with the inability to rouse themselves when in danger puts these infants at risk of suffocation. The softer the mattress, the greater the risk.
If babies are sleeping on their backs, why the need for a hard mattress? There are various reasons why young babies may end up on their tummy and at around six months of age babies begin to roll over on their own and may do so in their sleep. Once this happens parents are advised to continue putting babies to bed on their back but to allow them to find their own sleeping position.
7 The Bumper Pad Debate
Crib bumper pads are padded fabric panels that are designed to tie onto the inside of the crib lining the hard crib walls. Their intended purpose is to prevent limbs from getting through the bars and cushion any blows that a thrashing little person might inflict upon themselves. While a good idea in theory, there is much debate as to their effectiveness especially since they do seem to increase the risk of SIDS.
Bumper pads may prevent superficial bumps and bruises but they don't appear to actually prevent any serious injuries. Parents may feel that a cozy bumper pad with adorable pictures or snazzy patterns would be a nice surface to snuggle up against, but it's the soft padded nature of bumper pads that poses a danger. Infants may suffocate themselves by pressing their faces against the cushioned liner that is meant to protect them.
Another danger of bumper pads is that they hinder the circulation of fresh air within the crib raising carbon dioxide levels. Although the increase may be small enough to not be dangerous as a stand alone factor, when coupled with other circumstances the combined effect may have devastating consequences. A safer alternative to the padded bumper pads are breathable liners designed to keep limbs within the confines of the crib while allowing air to pass through freely.
6 Let's Talk About Linen
When selecting a sheet for your baby's mattress, make sure to choose a fitted sheet that is of the correct size to fit the mattress snugly. A loose crib sheet can come off the mattress and become a suffocation or strangulation hazard. Never use a sheet that is not designed for the mattress your baby sleeps on. A well designed crib mattress can be a life saver.
Lay your baby down directly on the crib sheet and never on a comforter or blanket. There is no need to line the crib for added softness. In fact studies show that a firm mattress is much safer for babies younger the 12 months because they reduce the risk of suffocation if the baby were to roll over onto their tummy.
While it is not recommended, some parents still insist on using a blanket. You can minimize the risk by using a lightweight blanket that the baby would still be able to breathe through with ease. Tuck the blanket in under the arms so that the baby is less likely to cover their face when lifting the arms. Provide additional protection by placing the baby near the foot of the crib and tucking the loose edge of the blanket between the crib and the mattress.
5 Size Matters
Adding a baby to the family can be expensive but your baby's bed is not the place to pinch your pennies. Invest in a good crib which meets all the safety standards and buy a proper crib mattress that is designed to fit snugly inside a crib. Most cribs can be used well into toddlerhood which means they will serve as your little one's bed for several years. Choose wisely.
Make sure that the mattress fits properly inside the crib leaving no gaps between the sides of the crib and the sides of the mattress. An improperly fitting mattress can lead to an infant getting trapped in an unsafe situation. If limbs or the torso fall into the gap serious injury may occur. Even more dangerous would be for a head to get trapped as this scenario could result in death.
4 Keeping Cozy
During cold months parents are often tempted to cover their babies with a blanket. Studies show that the use of blankets or comforters increases the risk of SIDS in several ways. Babies can become trapped underneath them and asphyxiate or even strangle themselves if the blanket wraps around their neck. Even just sleeping with their face covered increases the risk because fresh air can't circulate freely and breathing in carbon dioxide puts babies at risk.
Under most conditions babies should be perfectly comfortable in long sleeved footed pajamas. Lightweight fabrics should be used in the summer and the warmer fleecy kind would be quite comfortable during the winter. If there is still concern that the baby will catch a chill, sleep sacks are a good option. These infant sleeping bags are designed to fit snugly under the neck to keep clear of the baby's face. The arms are exposed allowing babies to get comfortable while the lower body is enclosed in the sac to keep them warm.
3 Minimize Clutter
While stuffed animals may seem like the perfect bedtime companions, they are unnecessary items which increase the risk of an infant smothering themselves. These soft toys can become hazardous if a baby were to roll over on one and end up with their face pressed into the plush surface.
Hard plastic toys do not pose this hazard, however they become quite uncomfortable if slept on. Ultimately there is no need to keep toys in the crib as the sleeping space should be calming and not playful. For the sake of safety it is recommended to keep the crib free of toys and other items.
If you want to give your baby something to do while they wait for you to arrive in the morning, choose a mobile to hang over the crib. Make sure that it contains only short lengths of cord and that it is well out of reach at all times. Little hands can grab at a mobile and pull it down only to get wrapped up in long pieces of string.
2 Tried And Tested
Various organizations around the world gather and quantify data to identify dangers and establish safety standards that are designed to create safer products. As new data becomes available, better standards are developed and outdated products may no longer meet those standards. Ensuring that all products and equipment that is used around your baby meets current safety standards is a great way to offer your little one the highest degree of protection.
Accepting used baby gear from family and friends is economical but do your research and make sure these items are still up to date when it comes to safety. If buying secondhand items, check current safety standards as well as research product recalls, and make sure you do a thorough inspection of the item before buying. When shopping at local stores, buy only from reputable vendors who only stock products that meet or exceed regulations.
1 Smoking Sucks
Just about everyone knows that pregnant women should avoid smoking. Tobacco smoke can potentially cause several health concerns for a baby as well as complications during pregnancy. What most people don't know is that smoking can increase an infant's risk of SIDS. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at three times the risk of SIDS.
Smoking during pregnancy is definitely an unsafe choice but secondhand smoke has been linked to an increased SIDS risk as well. Protect your baby by never allowing anyone to smoke around your infant. Since the hazardous materials in tobacco smoke linger in the air and seep into soft surfaces, areas where your baby spends a lot of time should also be off limits to people who are smoking. Limiting exposure to secondhand smoke not only reduces the risk of SIDS but also prevents the other health problems associated with smoking.
Sources: Webmd.com, Parents.com, Childsafetyexperts.com