Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) claims the lives of approximately 2,500 babies under age one every year. Most SIDS deaths occur between two and four months of age, with 90 percent taking place before six months of age. There are physical and environmental factors that can increase an infant’s risk. While physical factors may prove hard to avoid, there are steps parents and caregivers can take to decrease risks from environmental factors. Long Island Mamas has compiled SIDS prevention tips and local resources to help new parents.
SIDS can affect any infant, although studies have shown that risks increase in premature or low birth weight newborns, babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy or did not receive good prenatal care and newborns related to another child who died of SIDS. Boys and infants between their 2nd and 3rd months of life also suffer a higher risk. Some researchers have also theorized that the involuntary trigger in the brain stem that controls breathing and arousal from lack of oxygen is underdeveloped so it does not work properly enough to prevent respiratory failure.
In addition to physical factors associated with SIDS, there are environmental factors that can increase an infant’s risk as well. Fortunately there are ways to decrease the risks, including the following:
Sleeping on their Backs – Placing infants on their backs is a safer position versus on their sides or stomachs which can strain their breathing. Since the national Back to Sleep campaign launched, statistics have shown a sharp decrease in SIDS-related deaths. Positioners and wedges to keep babies on their backs are not necessary and may actually increase the risk of SIDS if the child moves around or rolls over during sleep.
Upright or Tummy Time While Awake – While positioning infants on their backs to sleep is important, they still need to develop neck, shoulder and arm muscles. Positioning them on their tummies or in an upright position while awake is equally important to develop muscles and avoid flat spots on the side or back of an infant’s head. Other ways to avoid flat spots is to limit the amount of time that a child spends in car seats, infant carriers, bouncers, swings and other items that put pressure on the back of their heads.
Firm Mattress – Using a firm mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards set by the Juvenile Products Manufactures Association can help decrease SIDS risks. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib and be covered with only a tight-fitting crib sheet. Never place a baby to sleep on any soft surface such as a quilted pad or blanket added to the crib of bassinet. This also includes feather beds, waterbeds, sofas, padded chairs, cushions, quilts and other soft surfaces. The child may move and become pressed against a soft edge, thus restricting air flow and circulation.
Co-Sleep in the Same Room, but Not the Same Bed - Studies have shown a decreased risk of SIDS when infants sleep in the same room as their parents as dads and moms can more quickly hear and respond to any emergencies. However, the risk increases dramatically if infants sleep in the same bed as their parents. This is partly due to soft surfaces on the bed that could restrict air flow and circulation and also to risks of trapping and suffocating if a sleeping parent accidently rolls over the child. Products such as a co-sleeper bassinet that is adjacent to a parent’s bed lets babies still be within arm’s reach yet have their own space for safety.
No Bedding and Blankets in the Crib - Using crib bumpers, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets or quilts could all increase the risk of interfering with an infants’ breathing if they move and their faces press against them. Until a child has outgrown the risk period for SIDS, there should be nothing in their crib. For cold nights, use an alternative like Sleep Sacks which keep babies safe and warm.
Offer a Pacifier – Research has shown that infants sucking on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS. The sucking motion keeps the brain stem active to detect any breathing issues.
Unfortunately the tragedy of SIDS can occur even if precautions are taken. For grieving parents, caregivers and other family members, local resources can help them work through their loss.
Guardian Angel Perinatal Support Group
The Guardian Angel Perinatal Support Group welcomes people of all faiths to gain support and friendship during their time of loss. The Group holds monthly meetings at 7:30 pm on the first Friday of each month and also offers a monthly newsletter. There are no registration requirements, dues or fees.
Where: St. Kilian Msgr. Swiger Parish Center (Church basement, Blue Room opposite the kitchen, enter via outside stairwells), 485 Conklin Street, Farmingdale, NY 11735
Contact Info: Martha Weiss, 516-249-8589 (24 hour answering machine) and firstname.lastname@example.org
Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center
The Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center promotes practices to reduce the risk of SIDS as well as offers a supportive environment to those affected by SIDS. They provide families with additional help and community resources for their grief.
Where: Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare, 101 Nicolls Road Stony Brook, NY 11794
Contact Info: 631-444-3690 or 800-336-7437
By Pamela Boccia