SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome is the leading cause of death among babies that are between 1 month and 1 year old.
It is a sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant with 90 percent of cases usually involving infants younger than 6 months.
When an infant dies suddenly, investigators and doctors try to find out the circumstances that led to the baby’s death. This includes seeing the place where the baby died, conducting a post-mortem examination and reviewing the baby’s medical notes.
After the investigation and the exact cause of death can’t be found, the baby is given with a SIDS diagnosis.
What causes SIDS?
Until now, this question has no definite answer just yet although researchers have been learning about some interwoven factors that may have caused SIDS.
It is believed that SIDS occurs at a certain stage in a baby’s development and that it usually affects infants who seemed vulnerable to particular environmental stresses.
Babies who are born prematurely or have a low birthweight are more susceptible to this vulnerability.
Environmental stresses may include getting entangled in bedding, cigarette smoke, breathing obstruction or a minor illness. Researchers also noted of an association between SIDS and co-sleeping (the baby sleeps on the same bed, sofa, or chair of an adult).
Babies who have been diagnosed with SIDS are deemed to have been unable to respond well to these stresses. It is also speculated that SIDS occur among infants who had problems in regulating their breathing, heart rate and temperature.
What are the risk factors of SIDS?
Apart from premature birth and very low birth weight, several other risk factors have been identified that may have increased the possibility of a SIDS occurrence.
- Babies who are born to a mother younger than 20 years old have a high risk of SIDs.
- The more babies that a mother has, the higher the risk of SIDS. It is even more apparent if the age gap between the siblings is rather close. Twins also have an increased risk of SIDS by up to two times even if they are not premature or have very low birth weight. Moreover, the risk of SIDS is increased five-fold among an infant who has a sibling that was diagnosed with SIDS.
- Regardless of the baby’s ethnicity, it was learned that male infants are about 30 to 50 percent more likely to die of SIDS compared to girls.
- American Indians and Alaska Natives are at the highest risk of SIDS. They are closely followed by Non-Hispanic Blacks. Likewise, African Americans, American Indians and Alaska natives have a righer risk of SIDS than Caucasian infants by more than two times.
- Infants who have suffered what is known as apparent life-threatening event are at higher risk of SIDS. This can be assessed on a baby that has stopped breathing, has turned pale and blue, has become limp and needed resuscitation.
Are there any ways that I can do to decrease my baby’s risk of SIDS?
While there is no fullproof way to prevent SIDS, there are at least a number of things that you can do to help keep your baby safe and decrease his risk of SIDS.
- When you put your baby to sleep, make sure that he sleeps on his back, in a cot or in a Moses basket. During his first six months, you can place the cot or the Moses basket in a room with you.
Back sleeping is deemed as the safest sleeping position for a baby who is usually prone to choking by sleeping otherwise.
- Place your baby in the so-called “feet to foot” position by allowing his feet to touch the end of the cot, a Moses basket, or a pram.
- When you put your baby to sleep, make sure that you leave his head uncovered and that his blanket is tucked in no higher than his shoulders. Babies would normally lose excess heat through their heads which makes it important to leave the head uncovered by bedclothes while the baby sleeps.
- Choose a mattress that is flat, firm, in perfect condition and is waterproof. Cover it with a single sheet. Don’t use pillows, bedding rolls, wedges, baby nests, quilts or duvets.
- Choose to breastfeed your baby as opposed to formula or any other form of feeding. Breastfeeding your little one reduces the risk of SIDS.
- Mothers who smoke should avoid smoking during pregnancy and after giving birth. Never allow anyone to smoke around your baby. This remains true even if the smoke is coming from a different room in the house through an open window. Visitors are advised to smoke outside where the air is open in order to keep the air around your baby smoke-free at all times.
- Avoid sharing a bed with your infant if you or your partner have been smoking, taking drugs or drinking alcohol.
- Make sure that your baby has a comfortable sleeping environment by keeping the room temperature at 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Avoid allowing your baby to get too hot or too cold.
- Never allow your baby to sleep for extended periods in a sling, an infant carrier, a bouncy seat, a swing, a stroller or a car seat. This is especially important among babies who are younger than 4 months of age as they tend to roll their head forward too much which causes suffocation. Check to see if your baby’s nose and mouth are clear and that they are not pressed against your body or the material.
- You can also sleep in the same room as your baby which is totally different from sharing a bed together. The latter has always been blamed for a baby’s strangulation, suffocation or entrapment.
- Getting a regular prenatal care will also help in decreasing the risk of SIDS. Make sure that you keep all your prenatal appointments to protect your baby’s health.
12. Let your baby use a pacifier when you put him down to sleep. This is particularly helpful during the baby’s first year of life.