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SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Keep your baby safe with these simple tips

February 2014

SIDS refers to the apparently inexplicable death of babies in the first year of life. While physicians and researchers still do not know what causes SIDS, some believe that abnormalities or the "immature newborn brain" make some infants susceptible to conditions that would not harm other babies, such as overheating or sleeping on their stomach. Since researchers do not understand the exact cause or how to predict if certain babies are at risk, it is best to care for all babies using the same safety guidelines.

One thing scientists do know for sure: stomach sleeping is a major risk factor for SIDS. Luckily, it's a risk factor that all parents can easily modify by placing babies "back to sleep," meaning on their backs to sleep.

What doesn't cause SIDS

You may have heard rumors that vaccinations can lead to SIDS. However, this has been disproven by numerous studies. People may have connected vaccinations with SIDS because many babies receive their first shots between 2 and 4 months, the same ages when SIDS risk is greatest. But, this is coincidental.

Here are a few other SIDS myths:
  • Baby monitors will prevent SIDS. These monitors do not prevent SIDS deaths and can lead to either a false sense of security or stress due to constantly listening for baby's breathing.
  • It is alright to co-sleep with a baby. Although tempting, it is best for babies to sleep on their own, separate sleep surface. Sleeping with a baby increases the risk of lying on top of the baby, particularly with adults who are overly tired, overweight or otherwise impaired. Room share, do not bed share.
  • "Side sleeping" is the best way to prevent babies from choking during sleep. "Back to sleep" is the best and safest way for babies to sleep. Side lying actually increases the risk that a baby will roll over on his or her face and possibly suffocate.

    What parents can do

    While nothing can completely eliminate the risk of SIDS, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to keep your baby safe. Follow these guidelines to protect your baby:
  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Keep your baby's environment cool so he or she doesn't overheat. To avoid overheating, remember that if you are comfortable, most likely the baby is too. Just add one layer to his or her clothing.
  • Make sure your baby's sleep surface is firm. Babies should not sleep on waterbeds, soft mattresses or fleeces.
  • Never place blankets, stuffed toys, decorative bumpers or other items in your baby's crib. Remember: Nothing but baby!
  • After breastfeeding is well established (usually after three to four weeks), offer your baby a pacifier at naptime and bedtime.
  • Never smoke around your baby, or allow others to do so.
  • To avoid a flat spot on the back of your baby's head, incorporate tummy time (supervised time on the stomach while the baby is awake) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.

    This article was reviewed by Sharon Johns, R.N., L.C.C.E., F.A.C.C.E., perinatal support services, St.Vincent Women's Hospital

    Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent, St.Vincent Women's Services and The Children's Museum have joined forces as community partners promoting various kid's Health issues. From February 1-28, infant caregivers may bring crib bumper pads to the concierge desk at The Children's Museum to trade for a free sleep sack, courtesy of St.Vincent Women's Services.

  • Tags: Health, In This Issue, Infant & Baby

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