Before going to learn the ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, it’s essential to know first about SIDS and its causes that will help a parent to be more cautious to reduce the risks of sudden infant death.
Sometimes a baby less than 12 months, dies during sleep, although the baby was healthy and you do everything right. It happens with no warning signs or a clear reason. This is called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is a more common cause of death in babies less than one-year-old. SIDS is the worst nightmare for the parents who know about it. SIDS is also known as crib death or cot death because most of the time it happens while baby sleep, usually between 10:00 PM to 10:00 AM. But this isn’t the only time when the accident may happen. It’s also important to know that about 20% of SIDS death cases happen in day care settings.
A data shows that each year about 1,500 infants dies in the United States due to SIDS. 90% of these death incidents involves infants less than 6 months old.
SIDS isn’t an illness or disease. Its actual reasons can’t be revealed even after a thorough investigation, including examination of the death scene, a complete autopsy, and a review of the child’s as well as parent’s clinical histories.
Causes of SIDS
Even after a thorough investigation in the past four decades, the reasons of SIDS are still undetermined. Experts are continuing to study to discover the causes and risk factors that may put babies at SIDS risk. The researchers have found that several risk factors combined (physical and environmental) is liable to cause a SIDS death.
Researchers point out three main physical factors that may cause SIDS death.It includes-
Abnormalities In The Brain
If there is any abnormality in the part of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep, the baby can’t wake up when breathing difficulties arise. This causes SIDS. Serotonin helps to regulate heart rate, blood pressure and breathing during sleep. Researchers reported lower than normal levels of serotonin in the brainstem in the babies who died from SIDS.
Low Birth Weight
Premature babies and low birth weight are also considered as a cause of SIDS death. The lower the birth weight, the higher the risk of SIDS.
Babies who suffer cold and breathing problems (stopped breathing and turned blue, pale and required resuscitation) have a higher risk of SIDS.
Sleep Environmental Factors
Sleeping on the sides or stomach increase the risk of SIDS as babies on these sleeping positions face more difficulties in breathing than those placed on their backs.
If the baby lying face down and sleep on a soft surface, it can block its airways and the baby may not be able to breathe properly.
Sleeping With Parents
If the baby sleeps in the same bed with parents, it also increases the risk of SID-partly as more soft sleeping surfaces of the adults.
10 Steps For Reducing The Risk Of SIDS
Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, by following the 10 steps recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you can greatly reduce the risk of SIDS death. These will not only lower your baby’s risk of SIDS, but also reduce all kinds of sleep-related death including entrapment and suffocation.
The 10 recommendations are:
Recommendation 1: Place Your Baby To Sleep On His/ Her Back
It is essential to lay your baby on his back during the first 12 months of her/his life- for naps, at night, or anytime. This is because if your baby sleeps on his/her stomach, there is a possibility of overheat, pauses in breathing and re-breath the air he/ she has just exhaled causing lack in oxygen. Don’t let your baby sleep on her side either, because at this position baby can easily end up on its tummy.
Recommendation 2: Ensure A Firm Sleeping Surface And Keep The Crib As Bare As Possible
Make sure that your baby’s sleeping surface is firm as per standards. Keep away the soft items like pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or fluffy toys in the crib as these may trap or suffocate your baby.
Recommendation 3: Don't Overdress/Overheat Your Baby
Overheating may increase the risk of SIDS. So, dress your infant comfortable clothes, especially when the baby is asleep. Avoid using a regular blanket, as your baby may tangle with it and cover his head with the blanket. Make sure that the room temperature is also comfortable for your baby.
Recommendation 4: Keep Your Sleeping Baby In Parent’s Room
Studies show that keeping the sleeping baby in the parent’s bedroom for the first year of life lowers the risk of SIDS. As adult beds are not suitable for infants, your baby should sleep alone on the bed or mattress specially designed for an infant. Don’t ever sleep with your baby on the same bed, if you’re tired or using medicines that affect your sleeping or if you smoke.
Recommendation 5: Breastfeed, If Possible
There are some evidences that breastfeeding your baby help to lower the risk of SIDS. Although the reason isn’t still clear, a meta-analysis conducted by the University of Virgina shows that breast milk protects baby from infections and thus decrease SIDS risk. So, breastfeed your baby, at least for the first six months.
Recommendation 6: Have Your Baby Immunized
It is essential to give your baby all the recommended immunizations in a timely manner. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that vaccines lower the risk of SIDS by 50%.
Recommendation 7: Consider A Pacifier To Put Your Baby To Sleep
Studies show that using a pacifier at the baby’s nap time and bedtime may help to prevent SIDS. Consider giving your baby a pacifier for the first year of his life. However, if your baby rejects it, don’t force him/ her.
Recommendation 8: Avoid Baby Monitors Or Other Commercial Devices Marketed To Prevent SIDS
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests not to use any kind of electronic devices or cardiac monitors that claim to lower the risk of SIDS as there is no evidence on behalf of their effectiveness or safety issues.
Recommendation 9: Don’t Use Drugs While Pregnant
Avoid smoking, using alcohol, tobacco or drugs while you’re pregnant. Studies show that smoking during pregnancy increase the risk of SIDS and it’s three times more likely than those who were smoke-free during that time.
Recommendation 10: Get Early And Regular Prenatal Care.
Early and regular prenatal care can prevent your baby’s premature birth and low birth weight and thus reduce the risk of SIDS.
It’s a happy news that SIDS rates have declined considerably from 130.3 to 39.4 ( 130.3 death in 1990 to 39.4 deaths in 2015 per 100000 live).
SIDS is rare, you just need to be more cautious. Don’t be afraid and don’t let fear keep you from enjoying time with your baby.