October is SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Awareness Month. Hearing this topic may invoke fear in parents or caregivers, but it is important to gain more insight on SIDS as well as ways in which we can prevent this from happening to your baby. In 2020 alone nearly 3,500 babies died from SIDS, which is the sudden death of an infant that is younger than 1 year old and cannot be explained.
Although when this occurs there are typically no findings or explanation to determine the cause of death, there is current research on how to reduce the risk of SIDS. These actions include:
- Use a firm sleep surface or mattress, covered with a fitted sheet and nothing more.
- Always lay your baby on their back when putting them in their sleep space.
- Keep objects such as pillows, loose beddings and stuffed animals out of your baby’s sleep space.
- Share your bedroom with your baby, but not your bed. Your baby should not sleep in your bed with you, on chairs, couches or anyone else. If a baby is sharing a bed with a smoker, they have an even greater chance of SIDS occurring.
After having looked at ways to reduce the risk of SIDS when your baby is placed to sleep, there are also other recommendations on how to reduce the risk of SIDS. Although these will not diminish the chance of this occurring, it can greatly decrease the risk and allow for you to keep your baby safe to the best of your ability.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking or other harmful activities while pregnant and after you give birth. This also includes keeping your baby away from people while they smoke.
- Breast feeding can also reduce the risk of SIDS by nearly 70%. If possible, it is recommended that mothers breast feed exclusively for 6 months.
- Sharing a room with your baby can allow for you to be alerted to any abnormal noises your baby may make. Keeping your baby in your room for the first 6-12 months of life is recommended.
- Swaddling does not decrease the risk of SIDS; it can actually cause your baby to overheat or increase the chance of SIDS.
- Skin to skin after delivery is recommended and can prevent SIDS.
Although there is not a guaranteed or definitive answer on how to prevent SIDS from transpiring, there are many recommendations to lower the risk. As mentioned, being sure that your baby is sleeping in a safe space, avoiding alcohol or smoking, and engaging in skin-to-skin can lower the chances of SIDS happening.