A fear of any new parent, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (commonly known as SIDS) is a leading cause of death for infants in their first 12 months of life and occurs when a baby dies (usually in their sleep) without explanation or warning.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes SIDS, but some theorize that it has something to do with defects in the area of an infant’s brain that’s responsible for controlling breathing and waking from sleep. Others believe that in addition to these brain abnormalities, environmental stressors and the infant’s stage of development also play a role.
There’s nothing you can do to fully prevent SIDS, but there are various steps you can take to reduce its risk. Here’s what you can do to help keep your baby safe:
Have your baby sleep on his or her back
Whether it’s naptime or nighttime, the safest sleep position for your baby through age one is on his or her back. While time on the stomach (often referred to as tummy time) is definitely important to your infant’s development, this should happen while your baby is awake rather than during their sleep time.
Be sure not to fall into the belief that it’s ok for your baby to sleep on their stomach once in a while—research shows that babies who typically sleep on their backs but are then positioned to sleep on their stomachs are at a higher risk for SIDS.
Avoid soft sleep surfaces
Couches, sofas, and other soft surfaces are dangerous to your baby’s health while sleeping. Instead, you’ll want to put your baby to sleep on a flat, firm surface specifically designed for infants. If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, infant carrier, or stroller, move them to a firm sleep surface as soon as you can.
Keep bedding and soft objects out of your baby’s sleeping area
Blankets, pillows, and other soft objects in your baby’s sleeping area increase their risk of suffocation. Once your baby reaches age one, these objects are probably ok, but before then it’s far safer for your child to sleep in a space without any soft objects, experts say.
Have your baby sleep in your room
Research shows that babies who share a room with their parents for the first six to 12 months of their lives have a reduced risk of SIDS. But this doesn’t mean you should have your baby share your bed, as this puts infants at risk of suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.
Don’t smoke around your baby
Exposure to secondhand smoke is a risk factor for SIDS, and so is a mother smoking during pregnancy. You’ll want to keep your baby away from anyone who is smoking, as well as away from areas where people recently have been smoking.
Make sure your baby sleeps at a comfortable temperature
It’s important not to let your baby get too hot while sleeping. Keep an eye on the temperature of the room, making sure it’s not too hot, and avoid overdressing your baby at bedtime. If your baby is sweating or appears hot, remove some of their clothing.
Give your baby a pacifier
Sleeping with a pacifier may reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. But since objects in your baby’s sleeping area can be dangerous, make sure the pacifier isn’t attached to a string, cord, stuffed animal, or anything else. If you’re breastfeeding, wait about a month before giving your baby a pacifier.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.