When it comes to parenting, there’s a lot of scary stuff, but few things terrify new parents more than SIDS. While SIDS isn’t 100 percent preventable, there are many things you can do to reduce your child’s risk.
What is SIDS?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the unexpected and unexplained death of a child under 1 year of age. SIDS most often strikes between 2 and 4 months, with 90 percent of cases occurring before the six-month mark.
According to Bill Schmid, founder of HALO Innovations and father of four, “There has been great success in recent years at reducing SIDS rates.” This is largely due to numerous organizations that have made extensive efforts to learn more about SIDS and educate parents. While any statistic is scary where your newborn is concerned, SIDS only occurs in about 0.7 percent of every 1,000 live births. That number is more than a 50 percent drop from the rates in the 90s.
One huge contributor to that drop is the Back to Sleep campaign that was introduced in 1994. This campaign was an effort made by several organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service, to educate the general public about one scary fact: Babies who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to succumb to SIDS. Since most babies slept on their bellies until this information became mainstream, the Back to Sleep movement made a huge impact on SIDS statistics.
The mom-baby connection
Research has made one thing clear: co-sleeping is not the safest bet for moms and babies. “Statistics show that of the more than 4,500 sudden, unexpected infant deaths occurring in the U.S. each year, at least 50 percent happen when the baby is sharing a sleep surface with another person. In some areas, that number is upwards of 80 percent,” says Schmid. “There is, however, research showing that sleeping in close proximity to your baby can reduce the risk of SIDS. According to First Candle, the nation’s leading organization committed to infant health and survival, the safest place for your baby to sleep, for at least the first six months, is near your bed in his own separate space.” The best options are placing a cradle or bassinet next to your own bed, or buying a safe co-sleeping alternative.
Additionally, research has shown breastfeeding to be favorable over bottle-feeding where SIDS is concerned. “Statistically, there are slightly higher rates of SIDS among bottle-fed babies,” states Schmid.
More to learn
The first step in preventing SIDS is practicing safe sleep habits. Another risk factor for SIDS is overheating. When putting your baby to sleep, don’t overdo the clothes and avoid blankets altogether—if you’re worried about your baby getting chilly, blanket sleepers are a good option. But don’t turn up the heat to compensate for the lack of covers. “Keep your baby’s clothing and room temperature at what would be comfortable for a lightly clothed adult,” advises Schmid.
Pacifiers are another SIDS-risk reducer. Babies who use pacifiers while sleeping are less likely to become victims of sudden infant death. Concerns about dental problems and nipple confusion once discouraged the use of pacifiers, but the SIDS connection appears to be a stronger concern and experts now recommend that all babies use a pacifier while napping and sleeping during their first year. Nursing moms may choose to wait until breastfeeding is well established to introduce the pacifier (usually around one month).
While SIDS is a scary prospect, moms shouldn’t allow it to rule over their own precious sleep. Schmid says, “By making sure that everyone who cares for your baby understands and adheres to these lifesaving recommendations, chances are excellent that everything will be just fine. Enjoy your baby!”