If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard about Sudden Infant Death syndrome. You’ve probably had at least one nightmare about it… I know i have. But what exactly is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, the slightly more palatable name that it goes by?
SIDS is the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby, usually under a year old, which normally happens during the night while the baby is sleeping. Sudden death syndrome can happen in older children and even in adults, but it is extremely rare. There is a school of thought that believes that SIDS may be associated with abnormalities in the portion of the baby’s brain that controls breathing and the ability to rouse them-self from deep sleep.
Some possible causes of SIDS (because there really are no real answers):
Physical factors associated with SIDS:
- Low birth weight – being premature or part of multiples means that the baby is most likely smaller and that their brain has not had as much time to develop fully. In effect, they have less control over their automatic processes, such as breathing and heart rate.
- Recent illness – young babies that are exposed to illnesses that compromise their respiratory systems are at greater risk, due to the fact that they may have a weakened system and because the illness may cause breathing problems.
- Brain abnormalities – Some infants are born with problems that make them more likely to die of SIDS. In many of these babies, the portion of the brain that controls breathing and ‘arousal from sleep’ just doesn’t work properly.
Environmental factors associated with SIDS:
- A baby’s sleeping position – a baby should always be placed on their back to sleep, never on their stomach or side. This can cause them to have difficulty breathing, and they are too little to turn themselves over.
- Baby’s bedding – there should be almost nothing (or nothing) in a young baby’s bed. Rather than blankets for warmth, make sure that your baby is dressed warmly enough, and doesn’t need any extra blankets… they can get tangled around the baby’s head and cut off air supply.
- Sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed – While sleeping in the same room decreases the risk of SIDS, sleeping in the same bed actually increases it. This is probably because of all the extra bedding that can potentially block baby’s breathing.
So now that we know what it is, is there anything that we can do to prevent it?
1. Put your baby to sleep on his/her back – This also means telling anyone that is watching your baby to put them on their back for nap or bedtime. It DOES make a big difference. If a baby is used to sleeping on their back and then is placed on their tummy for nap-time or bed one day, all of the sudden, it can be a shock to the system and even more dangerous. Once your little guys knows how to roll over by himself, its a different story. Put him to sleep on his back, if he decides to switch it up, let him :).
2. Make sure your baby’s bed surface is firm – tight sheets and no loose blankeys that can get tangled around baby…
3. Stop smoking – babies born to woman that smoked during pregnancy are three times more likely to die from SIDS than babies who’s moms didn’t smoke. But even stopping after baby is born can help. Babies that grow up in a smoke free environment are less likely to have respiratory problems.
4. Room share – if possible, let your baby have a space in your room until the age of between 3 and 6 months (talk to your pediatrician and decide whats right for your family) Don’t sleep with baby in your bed, but keep a close eye on your little one for the first couple of months.
5. Breastfeeding as long as possible – apparently this decreases the risk of SIDS by up to 50%,although researchers can’t say why. They do however make a point of saying “If you’re breastfeeding, don’t drink, because that can increase the risk of SIDS.”
6. Follow the guidelines and immunize your child – children that are immunized are less likely to be exposed to serious illnesses , which can in turn compromise their respiratory health. Children that have been immunized are 50% less susceptible to SIDS than those who have not been.
7. Use a pacifier to put baby to bed – this is a strange one, and researchers aren’t sure why either. There are some thought that the sucking action keeps the nasal passage clear for breathing.
8. Make sure that your baby is not overheating. Dress your baby in breathable, natural fabrics, like cotton, and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
9.Don’t put excess faith in cardiac monitors or electronic respirators, because these may just give you a false sense of security. They have not been proven to reduce SIDS.
10. Honey – stay away from it! Honey can cause botulism in babies under the age of one, and this has been linked to numerous cases of SIDS. Just to be safe, stay away!
Remember, your pediatrician is available to answer any questions you may have regarding this very serious matter. I Hope you have found this information interesting, and please feel free to pass it on.