Sudden infant death syndrome is still one of the major causes of death in babies from one month old up to a year. The actual cause of this syndrome is still unknown and it generally happens without warning while the baby is asleep. There is no possible way to guarantee that there will be no risk of SIDS, but there are a few risk factors that can be avoided to reduce the chance of baby going to sleep and not waking again. Here are a few recommendations to reduce risks:
Face up: When you lay baby down to sleep, ensure he lies face up or if you want to put baby on his side, prop him with a baby propping pillow to ensure he does not end up lying on his face. When baby lies on his stomach, breathing is restricted, which could be a risk factor for SIDS. Once baby can roll back and forth on his own, which generally occurs around 6 months, you can then allow him to sleep in his preferred position.
Reduce sleep surface softness: Babies should sleep on a firm surface without additional cushioning as babies are not able to lift their heads easily and can be smothered by an overly soft bed. You should also not allow a baby to sleep upright in a car seat or swing as his breathing could be restricted by the positioning of his head.
Avoid excess items in the crib: The crib should only have a tight, fitted sheet and nothing else. Do not have pillows, toys, bumpers, thick blankets or any other items that do not allow for airflow and can restrict babies breathing should he press up against it or become entangled.
Allow a pacifier for sleeping: It is unknown why there is a reduced risk for babies that sleep with a pacifier, but studies show that babies that go to sleep this way are less likely to experience SIDS. Only introduce the pacifier once your baby is latching properly on the breast and has been breastfeeding for a while if this is your preferred method, to avoid nipple confusion. Don't force the issue if baby is not interested in the pacifier and do not replace it in the mouth if it falls out while he is sleeping.
Avoid smoke: Babies exposed to cigarette smoke after birth as well as those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have a higher risk of SIDS. Do not allow smoking in the home and avoid areas where baby can be exposed to second-hand smoke.
Keep baby in your room but not your bed: Having the crib close to your bed reduces SIDS risk as well as increases your awareness, while bed-sharing has the opposite effect and has risks for accidental smothering as well as the SIDS risk increasing.
Don't overheat: Avoid making the room too hot or elevating baby's temperature too much. Don't swaddle or overdress baby. He should be comfortably warm but not hot. Higher body temperature increases SIDS risk. Keep baby away from heaters and other sources of heat.
Breastfeed if possible: The longer baby is breastfed for, the less the risk of SIDS. Experts believe this may be due to the immune boosting substances in breast milk. Avoid using drugs and alcohol while breastfeeding so that these toxins are not passed to baby, as this increases the risks.
Avoid honey: Raw honey has been linked to botulism in babies. While rare, this bacteria increases the risk of SIDS.
Stay away from machines and gimmicks: Most gadgets, cushions and other gimmicky products that claim to reduce SIDS actually have the potential to do more harm than good. Cardio-respiratory monitors also have no proven benefit in reducing the risk of SIDS in babies.
Immunize and visit your medical practitioner as required: Make sure you attend the necessary checkups to ensure baby is growing well and is in good health. Receiving all required immunizations has also been proven to cut SIDS risk in half. Missing out on immunizations or not having them at all adds an extra 50% risk for SIDS related deaths in infants.
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