John F. Ciannella, MD, Associate Director of the Division of Neonatology
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also called “crib death,” is when a baby younger than one year old passes away suddenly and oftentimes without explanation. While the exact cause of SIDS has not yet been concluded, there are studies that show a connection between babies who die of SIDS and certain conditions and risk factors.
Is it possible to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
There’s no way to predict with certainty which babies will pass away from SIDS. However, you can take steps to help control risk factors for SIDS. Here are 5 SIDS prevention tips for parents:
1. Get regular prenatal care.
Speak with your obstetrician about how getting prenatal care throughout your pregnancy can help reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. He or she will also likely recommend you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle—and avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco—while pregnant.
2. Proper sleeping positions.
Before babies turn one, they should be placed on their back when they go to sleep or take a nap. Don’t lay babies down on their side or stomach to sleep. However, give your baby plenty of "tummy time" when he or she is awake and someone is watching. "Tummy time" helps your baby’s head, neck, and shoulder muscles get stronger and helps prevent flat spots on the head. You may want to consider registering for a Basics of Infant Care class where the instructor will go over all these details and techniques.
3. Be mindful of bedding.
A firm mattress and a fitted sheet are key. Stay away from fluffy blankets or comforters which can cause suffocation. Likewise, babies should never sleep on waterbeds, couches, pillows or other plush materials. For the first year, leave toys and bumper pads out of the crib. If you have twins or multiples, each baby must have his or her own crib or infant-appropriate bed.
4. Keep them just warm enough.
Keep the temperature in your baby’s room comfortable, but not too hot. Over-bundling, dressing your baby in too many layers or covering the face or head can also cause overheating.
5. Share your space, but not your bed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is recommended that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the first year of life, but at least for the first 6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises against "co-sleeping," or sleeping in the same bed as your infant.
6. Well-baby checkups and vaccines.
Once you choose a pediatrician, he or she will reiterate the importance of regular checkups, routine vaccinations and sick visits if your baby isn’t feeling well.
7. Breastfeed your baby.
Studies show that breastfeeding for at least 6 months can reduce the risk of SIDS as well as provide other benefits. Speak with your pediatrician or lactation consultant for advice on feeding your infant.
8. Keep it hazard free.
Always place bassinets, cribs, and playpens in safe areas without hanging cords, wires or curtains nearby. Being mindful in this regard helps to reduce the risk of strangulation.
About Dr. Ciannella:
John F. Ciannella, MD, is a fellowship-trained and board-certified neonatologist who since 2008 cares for newborn infants and those who are premature or diagnosed with complex medical and rare conditions and those who are critically ill.
Dr. Ciannella has recently been appointed to the Board of Directors for First Candle, a 501c(3) charity based in New Canaan, CT. First Candle’s mission is to eliminate, through education and research, SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths. The organization also provides supportive services for families who have lost a child from SIDS, sleep-related deaths, stillbirth and miscarriage.
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