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|Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants under the age of one. SIDS is defined as the sudden unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age. Although SIDS can occur anytime in the first year of life, the peak incidence of SIDS occurs between 2 to 4 months of age. As a parent/caregiver it is of utmost importance to learn the risk factors for SIDS and how to protect your child.| Despite years of research, the cause of SIDS is still not fully understood. However, certain risk factors have been associated with a higher risk of SIDS. These include:
- Previous family history of SIDS
- Inadequate or absent prenatal care
- Smoking during and/or after pregnancy
- Illegal drug use, especially cocaine and heroine, during pregnancy
- Alcohol use during pregnancy
- Maternal age less than 20
- Recurrent pregnancy occurring within 1 year of last pregnancy
- Ethnicities at higher risk include: African Americans, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives
- Infants exposed to cigarette smoke
- Infants who are place to sleep on their tummies and/or sides to sleep
Protecting Your Baby from SIDS
Since the launch of the “Back to Sleep” campaign in June 1994, the incidence of SIDS has dramatically decreased. Here are some tips to help reduce your baby’s risk of this devastating event:
- Always place your baby on his/her back to sleep. Once your baby begins to roll over, the risk of SIDS is reduced since your baby is able to move his/her head to prevent suffocation.
- Avoid pillows, blankets, bumpers, sleep positioners, toys, and other objects in your baby’s bed.
- Avoid overheating your baby while he/she sleeps. Remove hats while sleeping and dress your baby in light clothing. The bedroom temperature should be kept at a temperature that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult (around 65°-72° F).
- Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS.
- Offer your baby a clean, dry pacifier when placing him/her down to sleep (during the first year of life and once breastfeeding is well established).
- Keep your baby’s bassinet/crib in your room until at least 6 months of age.
- Do not sleep with your baby in your bed. This is especially important if you have consumed alcohol or medication that cause drowsiness or disorientation.
- Use a fan in your baby’s room. A study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, concluded that the risk of SIDS decreased by 72% when a fan was used during sleep (2008). Fans are thought to increase circulation and decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that is breathed in by the infant.
- Do not allow smoking around your baby.
- Avoid exposing your baby to respiratory illness by practicing good hand washing and ensuring all visitors wash their hands. Also, ensure your visitors are not ill.
- If your baby stops breathing, turns blue or goes limp, call 9-1-1 immediately and be sure to notify your baby's healthcare provider.
Be sure to review all of these important aspects with ANYONE who will be caring for your child.
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Author : Diba Tillery RN, BSN, IBCLC, CPST