One of the most common fears of any new parent is the nightly threat posed by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This unexplained condition is the leading cause of death for babies between one month and one year of age and it affects children who are otherwise perfectly healthy. Research into factors that contribute to SIDS indicates that it may be caused by developmental delays or brain abnormalities that combine with environmental factors and result in the death of the infant.
Over the past twenty years, scientists and doctors have identified several factors that increase the risk of SIDS. Parents have been able to use this information to reduce the risks to their infants and the incidence of SIDS has decreased in that time frame. For new parents, understanding these factors is crucial to providing their baby with all the protection possible. According to the National Sleep Foundation, these factors include:
- Babies sleeping on their stomachs
- Babies sleeping on soft bedding
- Babies sleeping on unsafe surfaces like waterbeds and couches
- Use of additional bedding like blankets and pillows
- Overheating because of clothing or blankets
- Babies whose mother is under 20
- Mothers who smoke during pregnancy
- Mothers who did not receive prenatal care
- Babies who are born premature
- Babies who are born with a low birth weight
- Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke
Unfortunately, there is more to the equation than just environmental factors, some of which is outside the control of parents. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have suggested that there are three components required for babies to succumb to SIDS. The first relates to their developmental stage and the second to defects or abnormalities that make them more susceptible to SIDS. The third component, the environmental cause, is the only one over which parents have any control.
Parents can do their part to keep their babies safe by knowing the facts and mitigating the factors. Here is a breakdown of what you can do to keep your baby sleeping safe, even if they still aren’t sleep through the night.
1. Babies need to sleep on their back.
Back sleeping is the safest sleep position for babies as it protects them from suffocation. Because infants who sleep on their sides can roll onto their stomach, they should always sleep only on their backs.
2. Babies need tummy time.
Lying on their bellies is important to babies development as it helps them build their neck, arm, back and shoulder muscles. It is safe to place babies on their bellies when they are awake and being watched over.
3. Babies don’t need fancy bedding.
In fact, keeping fluffy blankets and pillows out of their crib is one of the best ways to keep them safe.
4. Babies need a firm bed.
Sleeping on soft mattresses, big pillows, couches, and other soft surfaces increases the risk of SIDS. Keep your baby safe by using a crib mattress or play pen specifically designed for baby safety.
5. Babies need to be comfortably cool.
Because babies’ bodies may not be good at regulating temperature yet, it is important to keep them from becoming overheated. Keep their room at a temperature that would be comfortable for you and use sleep sacks instead of blankets.
6. Pacifiers offer protection.
Research indicates that pacifiers may offer some protection against SIDS.
7. Babies need to sleep alone.
One way to protect your baby is to let them sleep alone in a baby-safe crib. While it may feel like the baby is safer sleeping in bed next to you, it simply isn’t true.
8. Babies need clean air.
Keep secondhand smoke and other air polluting substances away from your baby and their developing lungs.