There are few things that are scarier to new parents than the thought of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS typically occurs between the ages of one month and one year. It is not completely preventable.
We still have a lot to learn about SIDS. In the meanwhile, there are a number of things we can do to reduce our babies’ risk of SIDS. These include:
- Back Sleeping. Always place your baby to sleep on her back. Since the Back to Sleep program in the 1990s shed light on the fact that tummy and side sleeping increased the risk of SIDS, we have been able to reduce the instances of SIDS considerably.
- Share a Room, but not a Bed. Research consistently shows that babies are safest when they share a room with their parents, but sleeping in the same bed poses the risk of suffocation. Place the crib in your room until baby is at least six months old.
- Use a firm mattress designed for baby’s crib. The mattress should fit in the crib snugly, with no gaps.
- Breastfeed your baby if possible. In addition to a plethora of health benefits for baby and mother, breastfeeding has been shown to lower the rate of SIDS.
- Don’t smoke around baby. Don’t allow others to smoke around baby. While we don’t know enough about SIDS yet, we do know that it is causes by disturbances in baby’s breathing. The more smoke your baby is exposed to, the greater her chances of SIDS. If you must smoke, do so away from your baby.
- Keep the crib clean and empty (except for baby). It can be tempting to fill baby’s crib up with toys, pillows, baby blankets, and stuffed animals, but these all increase the risk of SIDS. Consider using a sleep sack instead of a blanket. If you do use a blanket, use one blanket and swaddle your baby in it. For older babies, tuck blankets in firmly if you use them at all.
- Use a pacifier. The risk of SIDS is significantly reduced if baby uses a pacifier when she sleeps.
- Discuss any abnormalities in baby’s breathing with your pediatrician. You’ll especially want to make sure to mention if your baby stops breathing, gags, turns blue, or goes limp while she is sleeping, after she has spit up, or at any other time.
None of these things, in and of can completely prevent SIDS. Still, they represent the best preventative measures we have at this point.