11 tips to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The Centers for Disease Control reports that an average of nearly 3,500 babies die each year suddenly and unexpectedly. As a new parent, that number takes my breath away. I’m sure that if you’re a new parent reading this then you’re likely having the same reaction. The prospect of something happening to your baby is beyond petrifying. The figure I shared above is for SUID, sudden unexpected infant death. That term is a wide-ranging one that incorporates SIDS deaths, babies who die from accidental suffocation and strangulation and babies who die from other unknown causes.

Here are some common questions that are most likely running through your head right about now: How common is SIDS? How many babies die of SIDS? What is sudden infant death syndrome? What are the causes of SIDS? 

In this blog post, I hope to answer all of your questions.

Let’s begin with the SIDS definition. Sudden infant death syndrome is the sudden, unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby who is up to one year of age. Did you know that SIDS is often referred to as crib death? That’s because typically a baby dies of SIDS while sleeping. 

In 2016, the last year that the CDC has released, 1,500 babies in the U.S. died from sudden infant death syndrome. What are the chances of SIDS? The latest statistics show 38 out of 100,000 live births will result in SIDS. 

Hearing those startling statistics, you’re likely asking yourself, what can I do as a parent to protect my baby? While there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, there are many steps you can take to reduce the risk.

  1. Put your baby to sleep on his or her back

  • The formerly named “Back to Sleep” campaign started in the early 90’s is credited with substantially lowering infant death rates over the last several decades
  • One question you might be asking yourself when it comes to “Back to Sleep,” what happens if your baby rolls on to his or her stomach in the middle of the night? According to the now named “Safe to Sleep campaign,” “if a baby rolls over on his or her own from back to stomach or stomach to back, there is no need to reposition the baby. Starting sleep on the back is most important for reducing SIDS risk.”
  • Since the launch of the “Back to Sleep” campaign the SIDS risk has dropped more than 60%
  1. Make sure your baby sleeps on a firm, flat surface 

  • Soft surfaces such as couches and pillows are not safe sleeping environments for babies
  • The NIH says car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers, infant slings or similar products should not be used as a baby's regular sleep area.
  1. Do not allow your baby to sleep with any loose bedding, sheets or stuffed animals

  • Any of these products can enable your baby or accidentally suffocate or strangle him or herself
  • Fitted sheets are recommended for safe sleep- it is important to make sure sheets and other bedding are not loose
    • TIP: If you use a playard- Check out Linen & Leah sheets. This product is made with sleep safety in mind. These innovative sheets connect with an adjustable Velcro strap to your Pack & Play mattress keeping them securely in place, reducing the risk for your baby. These really are the perfect Pack and Play sheets.
  1. Make sure your baby does not overheat

  • Take care not to over bundle your baby and make sure your baby’s clothes fit properly.
  • If it is cold, try wearable blankets that are safe for sleep
  1. Pacifier use

  • Using a pacifier has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Important safety note: do not attach the pacifier to your baby. Strings can pose a hazard in your child’s crib, bassinet or playard.
  1. Breastfeeding

  • Research has shown that any breastfeeding for 2 to 4 months reduces the risk of SIDS by 40%, any breastfeeding for 4 to 6 months has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by 60%
  1. Keep your baby smoke free

  • Smoking while pregnant can greatly increase the risk of SIDS
    • The CDC reports that Smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.
  • Babies exposed to secondhand smoke are at a greater risk for SIDS, according to experts.
  1. Have newborn baby share room with parents

  • The AAP recommends sharing a room until your baby turns one, but says room sharing for at least 6 months can reduce the risk of SIDS
    • The AAP says that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  1. Stay up to date on health checks and vaccinations

  • There are people who believe that SIDS can be caused by vaccines, the CDC says this, “The evidence accumulated over many years do not show any links between childhood immunization and SIDS.”
  1. Remember to give your baby plenty of supervised tummy time

  • Letting your baby play on his or her stomach can help to strengthen neck muscles 
  1. Don’t bed share

- The SIDS Foundation as well as the AAP recommend against bed-sharing- these organizations say falling asleep with your infant could potentially increase the risk of SIDS

Now that you know some of the preventative measures you can take, let’s delve a little further into the SIDS statistics. Male babies have a slightly higher chance than female babies of dying from the syndrome. So how about the SIDS risk by age? The NIH reports that most sudden infant deaths happen between infants in the age range of 1 month to 4 months. Delving further into the SIDS age range, that organization reports that the vast majority of SID syndrome deaths happen before a baby reaches the 6-month mark.

Though there are some running theories, the cause of SIDS remains unknown. Researchers including those at the Mayo Clinic think that the syndrome could be associated with “defects in the portion of an infant's brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.” 

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