Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or SIDS) is an awful condition that is often known as crib death. It affects babies up to one year old with no known warning signs or symptoms. As its name implies, it is sudden. Currently, the cause of SIDS is still not known but there are several things that seem to increase the risk factor such as: the mother smokes, doesn’t receive pre-natal care, and is under the age of 20. Babies who are multiples (twins, triplets, etc.), born prematurely and with a low birth weight are also more susceptible. That said, SIDS doesn’t discriminate and it can happen to any baby, even if they seem perfectly healthy and have parents who are incredibly watchful and vigilant.
If the cause of this horrible syndrome is not known, what can parents do to prevent it? Well, some of the first things a mother can do is not smoke, receive appropriate medical care during the pregnancy and plan to be pregnant after the age of 20. These types of proactive measures can reduce the risk of SIDS.
After your baby is born there are also some preventive measures you can take. It is now highly recommended that babies be placed on their backs to sleep. It is possible that sleeping on their stomachs makes it too hard for them to breath. Placing a baby on his/her side to sleep may result in the baby easily rolling over onto his/her stomach.
When putting your baby to sleep, be sure to keep any free or loose materials such as stuffed toys and blankets out of the crib. A baby can roll over onto these items or squirm out of a blanket and get it over their face. This can lead to suffocation or difficulty breathing. One alternative to a blanket is a sleep sack. These blankets are more secure and swaddle the baby more closely than a standard blanket would. Essentially it is a “wearable blanket” that is more snug and secure on your baby than a normal loose blanket. These sacks often zip up and some offer sleeves for the free movement of baby’s arms. They are sold at a variety of stores and come in different brands that offer a huge selection of colors and fabrics. Currently, the inexpensive Halo brand sleep sack is used in over a thousand hospitals around the country. That right there says something.
Other suggestions are to have the baby sleep in his/her own crib. It is highly recommended that you not place your baby in your bed to sleep with you. Doing so can lead to many preventable deaths and should never be done, no matter how sweet you may think it is. The mattress in the crib or bassinet should also be firm to fully support the child. Again, do not leave toys, blankets or pillows in the crib. Make sure the fitted sheet is actually fitted and secure, not loose and bundled up to pose a danger.
Research what is best for your baby and always remember to keep your doctor informed. Ask questions if you do not know or do not understand. And be sure to share what you learn with your family and the baby’s caretakers.