Researchers at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney, Australia, recently discovered the first evidence of a biological explanation for newborns dying unexpectedly in their sleep. Their findings reveal that newborns who die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have measurably lower levels of orexin, a neuropeptide in the brain that regulates sleep arousal. The hope is that these results could lead to a future test that would screen infants and identify those with low levels of orexin. In the meantime, parents should still follow these safe sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) when putting their babies to bed.
1. Place baby on his back on a firm surface without any soft or loose bedding.
2. Consider offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime.
3. Put baby to sleep in his parents’ room but in his own sleep space.
4. Breastfeed if you can.
5. Avoid smoke exposure, as well as alcohol and illicit drug use, during pregnancy and after birth.
6. Practice tummy time during the day to facilitate development and minimize positional plagiocephaly (commonly known as flat head syndrome).
7. Avoid overheating baby or covering his face or head.
8. Follow the immunization schedule recommended by the AAP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.