SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is an unexplained cause of death that usually happens during sleep, to a perfectly healthy baby less than a year old. It is also known as crib death because infants often die in their cribs. We still don’t know what causes SIDS, but it is assumed that SIDS might be associated with the infant’s brain defects in portions that control breathing and arousal from sleep.
Many risk factors have come to light after research, and they have helped prepare safety measures to reduce the risk of SIDS in your child. Putting your child to sleep on his back is one of the common safety measures (Source).
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How to detect SIDS symptoms?
While the actual cause of SIDS is still unknown, there are a few precautionary measures that parents and caregivers can take to reduce the risk of SIDS in infants. There has been a significant decrease in infant deaths caused by SIDS, but still, about 2600 babies die of SIDS each year in the United States (Source). SIDS is common between babies who are one to four months old, and it affects boys more than it does girls. Some of the causes of sudden deaths were later explained as cardiac dysfunction, brain abnormality, or infection, and these causes fall into the SIDS category.
What are the causes of SIDS?
A combination of several physical and sleep environmental factors can increase the risk of SIDS affecting your child. These causes vary from child to child.
- Brain defects: Sometimes, the cause is natural. Some babies are born with brain defects that make them more vulnerable to SIDS. In some cases, it happens due to improper development of the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.
- Low birth weight: Children that have had premature births or have been a part of multiple births are more likely to die of SIDS. In such cases, the baby’s brain doesn’t mature properly, which means that the baby has less control over automatic processes, like breathing and heart rate.
- Respiratory infection: Children that have had an infection, such as a cold that causes breathing problems are more vulnerable to SIDS
Sleep environment causes
- Sleeping on a soft surface: Putting your baby to sleep face down or on a soft surface, such as a fluffy comforter, a soft mattress, or a waterbed increases the risk of SIDS by blocking the infant’s airway.
- Sleeping on the stomach: If you put your baby to sleep in this position, he might have difficulty breathing, which increases the risk of SIDS.
- Sharing the bed: Sleeping in the same room as your baby reduces the risk of SIDS but sharing the same bed increases this risk.
- Overheating: An overheated room can also increase the risk of SIDS for your baby.
There are several other causes that increase the risk of SIDS in infants.
- Sex: Boys are more likely to die of SIDS compared to girls.
- Age: Infants between their second and fourth month are more vulnerable to SIDS.
- Race: According to research, nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
- Family History: If you have a family history of deaths due to SIDS, it increases the risk of SIDS in your baby.
- Being premature: Premature birth and low birth weight increases the chances of SIDS in your child.
- Secondhand smoke: If someone in your house smokes, it makes your child vulnerable to SIDS.
Maternal Risk Factors:
Sometimes certain factors during pregnancy affect your baby and make him vulnerable to the risk of SIDS after birth. Such as:
- If the mother smokes cigarettes
- The mother uses drugs or alcohol
- If the mother is younger than 20
- The mother is careless about prenatal care
How can you reduce the risk of SIDS?
According to research, there are several ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant deaths.
- Always put your baby on his back for sleep time. It helps reduce the risk of SIDS. Sleeping on the back is the safest position for babies until they are one year old. Children who sleep on their stomach are at a high risk of SIDS. Babies that have had premature births should be put to sleep on their backs as soon as possible after birth.
- Use a firm and flat surface for your infant’s sleep time. Your baby’s crib mattress in their safety-approved crib should only be covered by a fitted sheet, with no other bedding accessories or soft items inside the crib. Never put your baby to sleep on a soft surface, such as a sofa, couch, waterbed, pillow, quilt, blanket, or sheepskin. Don’t use car seats, strollers, infant carriers, infant slings, or other such items as a regular sleep area for your child. These safety measures will reduce the risk of injury or death from SIDS, suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation.
- Share your room with your newborn baby and keep him close to your bed. Don’t share the same bed, instead use a crib that is particularly designed for infants ideally for their first year. When you are in the same room as your baby, you can keep an eye on him or check on him throughout the night. A separate infant crib will reduce the risk of suffocation and strangulation. There is no evidence in favor of or against the devices that claim to make bed-sharing with your infant safer.
- Don’t put bedding accessories or soft toys anywhere near your baby. Keeping such items away will reduce the risk of suffocation and SIDS. Crib bumpers are also a hazard for infants and can cause severe injuries and deaths due to suffocation and entrapment.
- While the mother is pregnant, she should get proper and regular prenatal care, avoid smoking, and the use of alcohol and drugs.
- Don’t allow people around your child to smoke. Secondhand smoking is just as much harmful. A clean, healthy environment can help reduce the risk of SIDS in your baby.
- Don’t overheat your baby’s room temperature. Don’t let your baby get too hot. Dress him appropriately and according to the environment. Check for signs of overheating, such as your baby starts sweating, or his chest feels too hot. Keep your baby’s face and head uncovered while he’s sleeping.
- Follow up on your baby’s health care and vaccines. Vaccines help in protecting infants from infections while lowering the risk of SIDS.
- Avoid using products that go against safe sleep recommendations. There is no evidence of such products in helping reduce the risk of SIDS in infants. There is currently no known method that can be used to prevent SIDS altogether.
- Always follow the recommendations of your baby’s healthcare provider and never do anything on your own. Avoid products like heart or breathing monitors, unless your baby’s healthcare provider recommends it.
- Give your baby plenty of supervised tummy time while he is awake. It helps strengthen the neck, shoulders, and arm muscles of babies. It also helps in preventing flat head syndrome.
How does breastfeeding reduce the risk of SIDS?
Breastfeeding helps in reducing the risk of SIDS in infants. Breastfeeding has several health benefits for both mother and the baby. Longer sessions of breastfeeding reduce the risk of SIDS significantly.
After breastfeeding, you should always put your baby back into his crib for sleep. Try to keep your baby’s crib or bassinet near your bed for added convenience. Even if you fall asleep while breastfeeding your baby, put him back to his separate sleep area as soon as you wake up. Sharing the bed with your infant increases the risk of SIDS development.
How does a pacifier reduce the risk of SIDS?
Try to offer your baby a pacifier after he gets used to breastfeeding. Don’t attach the pacifier to anything, such as cloth, string, stuffed toy, or a blanket. Doing this increases the risk of suffocation and strangulation.
If you are not breastfeeding, you can offer the pacifier to your baby as soon as you want. Consequently, if your baby doesn’t like the pacifier, don’t force him to use it. If it falls out of the baby’s mouth during sleep, don’t put it back in. Pacifiers help in reducing the risk of SIDS in all children, including the breastfed babies.