There’s no two ways about it: the concept of SIDS is absolutely terrifying for any parent, no matter if it’s your first baby or your tenth. But SIDS Awareness Month is not about fear—it’s about education. Because while we still don’t fully understand the causes for so many tragic infant deaths, we have learned certain precautions that can decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths (SUID).
An important note.
You’ve no doubt heard people talk about how much the sleeping recommendations for infants have changed over the years. Back vs. stomach; blanket vs. no blanket; pacifier vs. no pacifier. But it’s important to remember: this is the nature of medical science and science in general. There is no dogma. As much as every researcher, physician, and nurse would love to be infallible, medicine is always evolving—we are always learning. Any and all new evidence is evaluated with care and consideration, and if new evidence is strong enough to support a different recommendation, then the recommendation will be changed. That being said, we wanted to share with you some recommendations for safe sleeping habits, as outlined by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.
Back, not stomach.
Always place your infant on their back to sleep for reduced risk of SIDS. And not just at night, but every time they nap too. It’s important to know that the risk of SIDS is significantly increased in infants who normally sleep on their backs, but are placed on their stomach for naps.
Ensure a safe sleeping space.
Creating a safe place for your baby to sleep is critical. Thankfully, it’s also fairly easy. A baby’s sleeping surface should be firm, not soft or cushy. It’s also important that your baby’s sleeping area should be free of any soft objects like pillows or loose bedding (a fitted sheet is recommended). The NICHD also recommends avoiding the use of crib bumpers, as they can actually increase the risk of injury in infants. And finally, there’s one more thing that shouldn’t share a bed with your infant: you.
Share your room? Yes. Your bed? No.
The AAP recommends that infants sleep in the same room and next to their parents, as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, you should not allow your baby to sleep in your bed—not even alone. Adult beds and other soft surfaces like couches and armchairs present numerous risks for infant suffocation, no matter if the baby is alone or sleeping with a parent.
Avoid smoking, drugs, and alcohol.
To reduce the risk of SIDS, mothers should abstain from smoking and abusing drugs and alcohol during and after pregnancy. Additionally, infants being exposed to secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.
Regular health care and immunizations.
Mothers who receive regular prenatal healthcare help reduce the risk of SIDS. After your baby is born, it’s also important to follow your all of healthcare provider’s instructions for both mother and baby—including all recommended immunizations.
Breast is best.
There are many important health benefits for both mother and baby that come from breastfeeding, one of which is a reduced risk of SIDS. It’s important for babies to breastfeed, or be fed breast milk, for at least the first 6 months.
We know SIDS can be a very scary and unpleasant topic. But knowledge is power, and we all want to do everything we can to protect our tiniest family members. For more information and resources on SIDS and SUID, visit the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.