SIDS is an acronym for “sudden infant death syndrome.” Sometimes also called “crib death,” this syndrome refers to cases where infants less than one year old die suddenly in their sleep without any known cause. Though the incidence of SIDS has decreased over the last 30 years, thousands of babies are still lost each year to this tragic syndrome.
Because doctors and scientists don’t understand exactly what causes SIDS, there is no fool-proof way to stop it. However, we are aware of some of the risk factors, and there are things that we can do to help prevent SIDS. The American SIDS Institute recommends that parents and caregivers take the following precautions:
Things You Can Do During Pregnancy
- Seek out prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant, and make sure you attend your regularly scheduled follow-up appointments throughout the remainder of your pregnancy. Proper prenatal care may help to prevent premature birth, which is believed to be a risk factor for SIDS.
- Do not smoke or use any drugs during your pregnancy. This will aid the healthy development of your baby, which may prevent SIDS later on.
- The rate of SIDS is higher among teen mothers compared to older mothers. You can prevent teen pregnancy by practicing safe sex.
- Short intervals between pregnancies appear to increase the risk for SIDS. Wait at least one year after giving birth before you become pregnant again.
Things You Should Do Once Your Little One Arrives
- Place your infant on his or her back during naps and at night. Infants who sleep on their stomachs and sides have a much higher rate of SIDS than those who sleep on their backs.
- Allow your infant to sleep in a baby bed with a firm mattress. It is not safe for babies to sleep on adult beds, couches, and sofas because they can suffocate if they become stuck in furniture crevices (e.g., between the mattress and headboard), or if parents accidently roll over onto them during the night.
- Remove all unnecessary clothing from your baby before putting him or her to sleep. Also be sure to remove all blankets, pillows, toys, and other objects from the crib. Your baby should be comfortable, but overheating (from excessive clothing or bedding) and extra objects in the crib have been associated with increased incidence of SIDS.
- Consider allowing your baby to use a pacifier while he or she sleeps, as this has been associated with a decreased risk of SIDS.
- Breastfeed your baby whenever possible. Not only does it facilitate bonding between mother and baby, but breastfed babies tend to have a lower risk of SIDS than formula-fed babies.
- Make every effort to prevent your infant from being exposed to tobacco smoke, as the risk of SIDS increases with increased exposure.
- SIDS usually occurs in conjunction with respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. Keep your infant away from anyone who may be sick, and make sure to have people wash their hands before holding or playing with your infant. Avoiding crowds, especially during flu season, is also recommended.