Ways to keep your baby safe from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
As a physician, it is always hard to explain to new parents that their perfectly healthy newborn could potentially go to sleep and not wake up, and no one can explain why. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. It is sometimes referred to as “crib death” because it often occurs during sleep. SIDS is particularly scary because it has no symptoms or warning signs and typically, babies who die of SIDS are perfectly healthy before being put to bed. It is still unclear exactly what causes SIDS and although there is no way to 100% prevent it from happening, there are some things you can do as a parent to help keep your baby safe.
1. Always put your baby on his or her back to sleep
This is the most important thing you can do to help decrease the risk of SIDS. By placing your baby on their back, you are decreasing the risk that your infant could smother in the bedding. In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually created a “Back to Sleep “ campaign that recommended that all healthy infants younger than 1 year old be placed on their backs to sleep. Since this campaign, the rate of SIDS has decreased by more than 50%! If you are worried that your baby might choke while sleeping on their back, don’t be. Choking is very rare and healthy babies tend to swallow or cough up fluids automatically. By the time your child is 6 months old, they will be able to roll over and may not stay on their back during sleep. That’s okay. You should still continue to place your child to sleep on their back, however, it is okay to let them choose their own sleep position once they know how to roll over.
2. Don’t let your baby sleep in the bed with you
It may be convenient and comforting to have your infant sleep in the same bed as you, however, the safest place for your newborn to sleep is in their own crib. Although, it is dangerous for a baby to sleep in the same bed with you, it is recommended that your infant sleep in the same room as you. Studies have shown that when a baby sleeps in the same room as mom, it lowers the risk of SIDS.
3. Keep the Crib Bare
This means your baby should be the only thing in the crib. There should be no pillows, blankets or even stuffed animals in the crib with your infant. This prevents smothering or suffocation.
4. Pacifiers may be helpful
Even though we don’t know why, pacifiers can lower the risk of SIDS. You should offer your baby a pacifier every time he or she is put to sleep. If you are breastfeeding your newborn, you should establish a good breastfeeding technique with them before you start to introduce a pacifier.
5. Don’t smoke
Exposure to cigarette smoke both before and after birth increases the risk for SIDS. This includes both women who smoke during and after their delivery as well as exposure to secondhand smoke. If you smoke, this is a huge reason to stop before you get pregnant and never let anyone smoke around your baby.