Have you ever heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS? SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between the ages of 1 and 12 months. The cause of SIDS is largely unknown; however, recent research suggests SIDS babies are born with an abnormality in the brain that controls breathing and waking during sleep, which makes them vulnerable to SIDS.

SIDS is the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that is unexplained after a complete investigation. An autopsy is done to rule out underlying health issues, family history/genetics, to review the infant’s symptoms or illnesses before death, and to examine the death scene. Some risk factors of SIDS include being born prematurely, having mothers who smoke, teenage mothers or mothers who did not receive adequate prenatal care.

What can we do as parents and caregivers to help reduce the risk of SIDS? One of the most important things we can do is to place the baby on their back to sleep; this keeps the infant from re-breathing. Re-breathing is when the baby breathes in the air that they have already exhaled, which is rich in carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. Placing an infant on his/her side or stomach can cause the baby to re-breathe the “bad air”.

In addition, if soft or fluffy items are placed in the infant’s bed, they have the possibility of getting in the baby’s face and can also cause re-breathing of “bad air”, or potentially, suffocation. The pack n’ play or crib where the infant sleeps should not have stuffed animals, pillows, blankets or bumper pads in it, only a tight fitting sheet and sufficient clothing to keep the infant warm. Infants are encouraged to share rooms with parents/guardians, but never share a bed. Putting an infant in bed with adults also puts the child at risk for suffocation. Regular use of a pacifier at naps or nighttime is one other way to decrease the risk of SIDS.

Lastly, infants in a smoke-free environment are 2 to 3 times less likely to die of SIDS. We encourage you to not allow anyone to smoke near your baby or in your home. Require anyone who does smoke to wash their face and hands and change their clothes before holding your infant, as third-hand smoke is still dangerous.

Infants should always have a safe place of their own to sleep. Cribs with bars wide enough to fit a soda can through are dangerous to infants and should not be used. Cribs which are broken or missing pieces can also be dangerous.

If you need help providing a safe sleep for your infant and need to learn more, please contact us to set up an appointment for a Safe Sleep class. In addition to learning everything you need to know to protect your infant from SIDS, you can earn a safe place to sleep for your infant at no cost to you, if needed.