Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is as frightening as it is misunderstood. It’s the unexpected death of an infant under the age of one—a death in which an autopsy offers no explainable cause. With so much mystery surrounding SIDS, many researchers are working hard to better understand it. And most agree that SIDS is not a single condition, but one that can occur because of a variety of factors.
Here’s some of what we know:
- SIDS occurs most often in infants who are two to four months old.
- 90% of SIDS cases occur in the winter months, with January being the most severe.
- SIDS affects boys more often than girls.
Risk of SIDS seem to increase when:
- Babies sleep on their stomachs.
- Babies sleep in the same bed as their parents.
- Babies are born prematurely.
- Babies are exposed to cigarette smoke.
While there’s still much to be learned about SIDS, there are ways parents can take advantage what we know. Recently, there has been a decrease in the number of SIDS cases thanks to new guidelines for safeguarding infants. Here are some of the things you can do as parent to protect your baby from SIDS:
- Avoid soft bedding materials and decorative, or unnecessary, items. Soft bedding and needless clutter can surround your baby’s face, increasing the risk of re-breathing the carbon dioxide they exhale. This includes bumpers, blankets and stuffed toys. Sleep sacks should be used instead of loose blankets to keep baby warm.
- Place your baby on his or her back to sleep. This also ensures that as your baby exhales, dangerous carbon dioxide does not accumulate around their face.
- Establish a separate, but nearby sleeping environment. A crib can protect your baby from potential falls, while a separate sleeping area eliminates the rollover risk of sleeping alongside an exhausted parent.
- Regulate the room temperature. You may feel inclined to keep your baby extra warm. But, if you’re warm enough in normal clothing, your baby will be too, and doesn’t need the extra blankets.
- Keep your baby in a smoke-free environment. Smoking is harmful to everyone. But imagine the effects of second-hand smoke on the little lungs of your infant.
SIDS is still, in some ways, mysterious. But for all we understand, being aware of (and following through on) what you can do to prevent it is the key to protecting your baby from SIDS. Stay sharp, recognize the risk factors, and keep your little one safe!