From the moment you decide to have children, there will always be factors beyond your control that might affect your child. But, with careful attention, parents can educate themselves about what to expect and put their child’s safety above all else. While children under one may be at greater risk of SIDS, parents can reduce those risks with some understanding of this syndrome and by following a few recommendations.
What is SIDS?
SIDS, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the sudden, unexplained death of a child under one. It usually occurs while the child is sleeping. While its cause is unknown, research has uncovered a number of ways to reduce the risks.
How can you prevent SIDS?
- Get prenatal care. Premature births are a major risk factor for SIDS. Mothers who have prenatal care, and give special attention to their health and nutrition as early as the first few months of pregnancy, are more likely to carry their babies full term.
- Position babies to sleep on their backs. Studies have shown that babies who sleep on their sides and stomachs have a much higher rate of SIDS deaths. While babies may sleep more soundly in those positions, the risks certainly outweigh the benefits.
- Have babies sleep on a firm mattress. The risk of SIDS increases when babies sleep on soft pillows and other soft surfaces. Be sure to purchase a safety-approved crib mattress for your child.
- Avoid co-sleeping. Dr. Karen Smith, a Family Practitioner affiliated with North Hills Hospital, explains this danger:
“We know that throughout history parents and children have slept in the same bed, on the same mat, or on the same floor. What is different now is the quality of our mattresses. They are simply too soft to be safe for an infant. A young infant doesn’t have the head and neck strength to protect their nose and mouth from soft surfaces.”
- Avoid extra clothing or loose bedding. Keep all loose blankets, pillows and stuffed animals out of the crib while your baby sleeps. Dr. Smith comments:
“I challenge my families to create a really, bare, unfriendly-looking crib with no pillow, no bumper pads, and only one or two thin blankets. This is a safe environment for a baby, at least until the baby can roll over.”
- Do not overheat your child. Keep the temperature in the room comfortable. If it is cold, put your child in a zip-up sleep outfit that will not come loose.
- Do not smoke or use drugs. Smoking and using drugs during pregnancy, or exposing a baby to second-hand smoke, can increase the risk of SIDS significantly.
- Breast feed babies when possible. Studies show that breast-fed babies have a lower occurrence of SIDS. Breast milk will also decrease the possibility of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.
- Discuss any breathing issues with your pediatrician immediately. If your baby tends to gag or spit up frequently, this may interrupt his or her breathing at night. Some babies also run the risk of sleep apnea for various reasons, which can interrupt a baby’s breathing during sleep. If your child shows any signs of breathing difficulty during sleep, discuss these issues with your child’s pediatrician immediately.
If you are concerned about your child’s SIDS risks or would like to learn more about SIDS prevention, we suggest that you schedule an appointment with a pediatrician. To find a physician at North Hills Hospital, please go here. For information about other services we offer, please visit our website or call (817) 255-1000.
Reducing the Risk of SIDS (American SIDS Institute)
Preventing SIDS (American Lung Association)