If you find yourself checking to make sure your baby is breathing several times a night, you’re not alone. The fear of your baby not breathing is probably about the worst thing you could imagine. The truth is, although the risk is small, it can happen and it’s called SIDS.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS occurs when babies under 1-year-old die while sleeping for accidental reasons or no apparent reason at all. It is most likely to occur in babies who are 1 to 4 months old and risk of SIDS greatly decreases after 6 months.
For parents, SIDS seems out of their control. But there are environmental and behavioral factors that are linked to a baby’s risk of SIDS. Therefore parents have the ability to decrease a baby’s risk of SIDS by adhering to the following recommendations:
Always place your baby on her back to sleep. Stomach sleeping greatly increases the risk of suffocation as a baby’s mouth could get smooshed into the mattress if she cannot lift her head or roll over. Side-sleeping increases the chance that a baby could roll to her stomach. Sleeping on her back is the very best and safest way for a baby to sleep.
Avoid co-sleeping but do sleep close. Babies should have their own space to sleep. Being in a parent’s bed can lead to suffocation due to blankets, sheets, pillows and a parent accidentally rolling on the baby. However, babies who sleep in the same room as their parents for the first few months have less of a chance of dying from SIDS.
Clear the sleep space. Make sure your baby’s sleep space has nothing in it including toys, stuffed animals, blankets or bumpers. All of these are suffocation hazards.
Breastfeed as long as possible. Studies show that breastfeeding decreases a baby’s risk of SIDS by up to half. Experts don’t know why this is the case but the statistics point to the value of breastfeeding to reduce SIDS significantly.
Don’t let your baby get too hot. Overheating increases risk of SIDS. Keep your baby’s room cool, ideally between 68 and 72 degrees. Also dress your baby in light, breathable fabrics. Never let your baby sleep with a blanket as she may get tangled in it. Rather, use a sleep sack to ensure your baby is just warm enough.
Never give your baby honey. Honey is linked to SIDS because it can cause botulism. This bacterial infection may close off a baby’s airways.
Give your baby a pacifier. Babies love to suck and sucking can help their breathing as well, lowering risk of SIDS. If your baby wants it, let her sleep with a pacifier. Never force it however and don’t replace it if it falls out during sleep.
Don’t drink or smoke while pregnant. Babies born to mothers who drank or smoked during pregnancy have a higher risk of SIDS. Additionally, second-hand smoke exposure increases a baby’s risk of SIDS.
Vaccinate your baby. Babies who receive all of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended immunizations are 50% less likely to die of SIDS.