SIDS Part 1: Eight Lifesaving Baby Sleep Tips
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS. Otherwise known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you have an infant or you are expecting one, then this is probably one of the scariest and most anxiety-producing terms you have ever heard.
I am hoping that with this post I will help clear up some misconceptions and fears about SIDS. I am also hoping to arm you with the most accurate information about safe sleep so you can make the most informed sleep decisions for your baby.
Just an FYI, I have a lot of anxiety. When my boys were babies, I worried about SIDS constantly. It did help me to know that because I knew all of the safe sleep recommendations I kept them as safe as I could while they were sleeping and that was the best I could do.
The Dreaded Call
As a public health nurse (PHN) supervisor, I would receive a call anytime there was an unexpected infant death in my county. The same woman always called me to report it, and if I saw her name on the caller ID, I would just want to cry. I dreaded this call. It always meant that some family would never be the same. That a family was hurting in a way that very few will ever understand.
It was my job to assign a public health nurse to make contact with these families. Sometimes the death occurred with a family that the PHN was already working with. Sometimes not. The PHN would reach out to the family to offer them support and education. They would give the family a thick folder with books and information about infant loss. The whole thing was just so awful.
I hope and pray that none of you will ever experience this pain. What I want to share with you today is that although SIDS isn’t preventable, there are several things you can do to lower your baby’s risk of SIDS and provide a safe sleep environment for your baby.
Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)
First of all, when talking about safe sleep for baby’s, another acronym you may see is SUID. This stands for Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. SUID is a term that includes any explained or unexplained infant death. SUID’s includes deaths from SIDS, deaths from suffocation (for example a blanket or pillow covering a baby’s airway) or entrapment (such as a baby getting trapped between couch cushions or between a mattress and a wall). SUID also includes unexplained causes that can occur from illness, ingestions, accidents, and traumas. SIDS makes up about 43% of all SUID’s.
First The Facts
A few facts about SIDS.
- It is the leading cause of death for babies between 1 month and 1 year old.
- SIDS is SILENT. You won’t “hear” if a baby is in trouble because they won’t make a sound.
- In 2015 approximately 1600 babies died of SIDS in the US.
- 90% of SIDS deaths occur before six months of age.
- There is almost no risk of a baby dying of SIDS after their first birthday.
Check out more statistics from the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm.
What causes SIDS?
There are many factors that may play a role in the cause of SIDS. Research suggests that a combination of environmental stressors, variations or defects in the infant’s body and the critical infant development time of 1-12 months old may play a role in deaths that occur from SIDS. There is still a lot of research that still needs to be done.
What does NOT cause SIDS?
- Cribs (SIDS used to be called “crib death.”) Cribs do not cause death and SIDS does not just happen in cribs.
- Vomiting or spitting up.
Eight Ways to Reduce Your Baby’s Risk
Ok, now that all of that is out of the way I want to talk about what you can do right now to reduce the risk of your baby dying of SIDS.
- Always place your baby on her back to sleep. This is the NUMBER ONE way to reduce the risk of SIDS. Always, every time, no exceptions (ok, so there are VERY FEW exceptions to this rule and stomach sleeping should ONLY happen if you are told to by your pediatrician).
- Your baby should never have pillows, blankets or stuffed animals near them when they sleep.
- Avoid allowing your baby to overheat when they sleep. I see people overdressing their babies all of the time. A good rule of thumb is to dress a baby in one more layer than what you are dressed in. And keep the temperature of your home at a temp you are comfortable in. Sleep sacks are great for putting your baby in for sleeping.
- Do not put any bumpers in your baby’s crib. This is such a pet peeve of mine. I feel like every picture of baby bedding has a crib bumper in it. They are SO dangerous! The risk of suffocation or strangulation from bumpers is much higher than the risk of minor injury to your baby that you are trying to avoid by having bumpers.
- Do NOT have your baby sleep in bed with you. But it is suggested that you should have your baby sleep in the same room as you if possible for the first six months. An approved (by the Child Protection Safety Council) crib, bassinet, pack ‘n play, or co-sleeper (where the baby sleeps in a separate space attached to the bed) with an infant mattress and a tight-fitting sheet is the best place for your baby to sleep.
- Breastfeed your baby if at all possible. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have a decreased risk of SIDS.
- Use a pacifier when your baby goes to sleep. If you are breastfeeding, do not use a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established. If your baby doesn’t want a pacifier, you don’t need to force it. If the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth, you do not need to put it back in.
- Do not use positioners or wedges. These are NOT approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Protection Safety Council, or the FDA. They have not been found to decrease the risk of SIDS.
The ABC’s of Safe Sleep
There is a quick way to remember the most important takeaways from this. It is the ABC’s of Safe Sleep:
A: Alone. Always have your baby sleep in its own sleep area, not in a bed, chair, or couch with another adult or child.
B: Back. Always put your baby down on her back to sleep.
C: Crib. Always put your baby to sleep in a crib or other safe sleeping location.
What Puts Your Baby at a Higher Risk?
What puts your baby at HIGHER RISK for SIDS?
- Smoking during your pregnancy or your baby being around secondhand smoke.
- Falling asleep on a couch or chair with your baby. This is very dangerous. Babies can slip down between your body and the inside of the couch and suffocate. I just read a story about a cardiologist that this happened to. My feeling is that if this can happen to a doctor, it can happen to ANYONE.
- When your baby is put to sleep on her stomach when she is used to sleeping on her back.This greatly increases your baby’s risk of SIDS.
This is a lot of information. And there is a lot more. See part 2 of this post, The 6 Most Frequently Asked Questions About SIDS here. I initially had this all in one post but decided that it was too long so I broke it into two posts.
If you only remember one thing from this post, make it this: Put your baby to sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib (or other safe sleep location) EVERY time you put them to sleep.