Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the unexplained death while sleeping of a baby who is otherwise healthy. It is one of the leading causes of death among infants. While there is no surefire way to prevent SIDS, there are several things you can do which significantly reduce the risk of SIDS for your baby. These include:
- Lay your baby down to sleep on her back. Every single time your baby sleeps, she should be sleeping on her back (with the obvious exception of when you are holding her and actively watching her). Since the early 1990s, when it was first determined that stomach sleeping was a leading cause of SIDS, a concerted effort has been made to encourage parents to lay their children down to sleep on their backs, and it has resulted in a marked decrease in SIDS.
- Put baby to sleep with a pacifier. If you are breastfeeding, wait until baby is one month old before starting to use a pacifier to avoid confusing her. Let baby fall asleep with a pacifier from age one month to one year. You can use a pacifier longer if you desire, but most experts consider the risk of SIDS to be fairly minimal after baby is a year old.
- Don’t allow smoking in the house. You should be especially careful about allowing anyone to smoke in or near baby’s sleep areas. Smoking around baby has been shown to be a contributing factor to SIDS (not to mention other respiratory problems). If you must smoke, smoke outside.
- Keep baby’s crib empty. No blankets (unless she’s using a wearable blanket or swaddled), pillows, stuffed animals, bumpers, loose sheets, or anything else which could pose a choking hazard.
- Use a properly fitted mattress. Baby’s mattress should fit snuggly into her crib, with no room for hands, feet, and (especially) heads to get stuck between the crib and mattress. The mattress should also be firm. Soft mattresses can cause asphyxiation if your baby does manage to flop over onto her belly, as they are prone to do as they get older.
While doing these things does not guarantee complete immunity from SIDS, each of them significantly reduces the chances that you will ever have to deal with this tragedy. And when it comes to our babies, every little thing we can do to help make them a little bit safer is a good thing.