“October is SIDS Awareness Month. SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” explains Chris Schroeder, RN, OB Clinical Coordinator at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “It is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant younger than one year old. It is the leading cause of death in children between one month and one year of age. Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 2 months and 4 months of age.”
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, health care providers don’t know what exactly causes SIDS, but they do know certain things can help reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Always place babies on their backs to sleep – Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides. Placing your baby on his or her back to sleep is the number one way to reduce the risk of SIDS. Side sleeping is not as safe as sleeping on their backs and is not advised.
- Use the back sleep position every time – Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS. So it is important for babies to sleep on their backs every time, for naps and at night.
- Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet - Never place a baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt, sheepskin, or other soft surface.
- Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area – Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins, or pillow-like bumpers in your baby’s sleep area. Keep all items away from the baby’s face.
- Avoid letting your baby overheat during sleep – Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
- Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing your baby down to sleep, but don’t force the baby to take it. (If you’re breastfeeding, wait until your child is 1 month old, or is used to breastfeeding before using a pacifier.)
- Do not smoke during pregnancy- Maternal smoking during pregnancy has emerged as a major risk factor in almost every epidemiologic study of SIDS.
Chris adds, “Make sure everyone who cares for your baby knows to place your baby on his or her back to sleep and about the dangers of soft bedding. Talk to childcare providers, grandparents, babysitters, and all caregivers about SIDS risk. Remember, every sleep time counts. One of the frequently asked questions about placing your baby on his or her back to sleep concerns the risk of choking. The answer is no, babies automatically swallow or cough up fluids, and they naturally lay their heads to the side. There is no increase in choking or other problems in babies sleeping on their backs. Remember-back is best for baby’s sleep.”