By Ben Spitalnick, MD, MBA, FAAP
When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, we were fortunate to have a grandmother on hand to help with so many new baby needs. We quickly learned that while much baby care advice had not changed in the past 30 years, the one thing that had changed and caused the most tension was baby sleep recommendations. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, parents were told to let babies sleep face down, as it was theorized it might be safer that way in case of choking. Starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s however data has proven otherwise, and since the original “Back to Sleep” campaign (now expanded to be known as “Safe to Sleep”) was launched, SIDS rates have been cut in half.
While we have blogged about SIDS before, it’s important to readdress the subject in honor of SIDS Awareness Month and to continue to spread SIDS awareness. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (known as SIDS) is a rare and often preventable condition, that causes death in infants under age 1. The peak is usually between age 1 and 4 months, and 90% of SIDS happens by age 6 months old. There are currently between 2,000 – 4,000 cases of SIDS in the United States each year. There are some risk factors that are considered unavoidable, such as prematurity, race, and poverty. But there are three major risk factors that are very avoidable, and all new parents should take these guidelines seriously.
Babies should sleep on their backs, face up.
And on a firm surface. Even short naps face down should be avoided. The medical reason why it’s safer in preventing SIDS is not completely understood, but researchers have several theories. These include not rebreathing their own carbon dioxide, being able to better control their own body heat, or being able to better keep their airway open.
This is one of the most frequent causes of SIDS we see today. New parents often say they feel sleeping with their infant in bed with them seems protective and comforting. They THINK they would be more aware of any distress with their infant, if they were in bed together. Unfortunately, it is so often shown to not be the case, and SIDS is usually a very quiet, still event that goes unnoticed like a good night sleep. We recommend that the infant sleeps in the room with their parent, and can be as close to your bed as you want, but not actually in the same bed.
No smoking in the home.
Babies exposed to cigarette smoke have a higher rate of SIDS, and secondhand smoke is often invisible.
For more about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month and Safe to Sleep, please click the following link: https://www1.nichd.nih.gov/sts/Pages/default.aspx
For more insight from Dr. Ben check out his Twitter, Instagram, and his American Academy of Pediatrics published book, Baby Care Anywhere, which is available anywhere online books are sold.