Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a sleep-related syndrome that causes infant deaths. SIDS is an exceptionally heartbreaking situation, but thankfully, there are actions that you and all caregivers for your baby can take to reduce the risk of it and other sleep-related causes of infant death.
1. Know What to Avoid
Before your baby is born, you should seek prenatal care from a caregiver. They can provide expert advice on what you should avoid to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. For instance, smoking, using marijuana, illegal drugs, and drinking alcohol is strongly advised against. In addition, it’s important to avoid people smoking around your baby.
Teen pregnancies are also at a high risk of SIDS, especially the second child. So it is vital that younger women thinking of having a child consider their options carefully.
2. Ensure Your Baby is Sleeping in the Right Position
Always place your baby on his or her back when sleeping at night and also for naps in the daytime. The back sleeping position is the safest for all babies until they are 1 year old. Allowing your baby to sleep on his or her stomach in the daytime, even just for a short nap puts your child at very high risk for SIDS.
3. Use a Safety-Approved Crib
Place your baby in a safety-approved crib to sleep. It should have a firm and flat sleep surface that is covered by a fitted sheet. Do not include any other bedding, pillows, bumper pads, covers, positioning devices, or soft items in the sleeping area. Alternately, a portable crib works well when you are on the go with your baby.
Don’t ever put your baby on a couch, quilt, waterbed or blanket for sleeping. If your baby should fall asleep in a swing or in his or her car seat, remove them when you go inside and place them in an appropriate sleep area. This reduces the risk of SIDS, death and injuries from strangulation, entrapment and suffocation.
4. Breastfeed if Possible
If at all possible, you should breastfeed your baby to reduce the risk of SIDS for him or her. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Babies who breastfed or who drink breast milk, are a lower risk for SIDS than are babies who were never fed breast milk.” If you bring your baby into bed with you when feeding, return him or her to their appropriate sleeping area afterwards. Babies should not co-sleep with parents in a bed, as a parent can accidentally roll over on them and cause suffocation and death.
5. Share Your Bedroom With Your Baby
It’s best to keep your infant in your bedroom in their own appropriate sleeping surface for the first year, but at least for the first 6 months of their life. The American SIDS Institute recommends parents to, “Keep your baby’s crib in your bedroom until he is at least 6 months of age and has learned to easily roll both ways on his own.” This is shown to reduce the risk of SIDS due to falling asleep while bonding or feeding your baby in the bed or in a chair. Don’t allow your baby to sleep with siblings either. If your baby has a cold, keep your baby near you, but in his or her own sleeping area. Babies with colds are more likely to be at risk of SIDS.
6. Practice Safe Use of Pacifiers
You can give your baby a pacifier whenever he or she naps or sleeps at nighttime. Don’t use a pacifier holder or clip, as the string on it is a risk for strangulation, choking and suffocation. If you are breastfeeding, wait to offer the pacifier until your baby is breastfeeding very well at about 3 to 4 weeks of age. If you are not breastfeeding, you can offer the pacifier from the very beginning after birth.
7. Consider Their Temperature When They’re Sleeping
Keep your baby cool enough when he or she is sleeping. Dress your baby in a blanket sleeper that is warm, rather than using blankets to keep him or her warm. Do not over bundle or overdress your baby when napping or sleeping and watch for the telltale signs that your child is too hot, such as sweating, or a chest that is hot when touched. Make certain your baby’s face and head are uncovered while sleeping without a hat or hood on it.
8. Vaccinate Your Baby
Stay up to date on your baby’s checkups and vaccines. Follow your healthcare provider’s schedule for all of your baby’s appointments. It is a fact that vaccinated babies have a much lower risk for SIDS.
9. Allow Tummy Time
When your baby is awake, allow him or her to be on the tummy while being supervised. Your baby needs to be on a play mat on a floor, but not in a bed for his or her playtime. When babies are on their tummy, they strengthen the muscles in the neck, shoulder and arms as they naturally raise their heads when their arms are on the surface. Many parents refer to this exercise as “baby pushups.” This also keeps your baby’s head from developing flat spots in the back from sleeping on his or her back.
Following these guidelines can help you to have a healthy and happy baby and reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleeping-related deaths for infants. Make certain that all caregivers for your baby follow the same guidelines, so your baby is safe even when someone else is watching him or her.