Risk of SIDS

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How many of you have spent time awake at night quietly listening to your baby’s breath?

As a mother of 3 children, I cannot count the hours that I have spent lying awake in bed trying to hear their little breaths. Until the exhaustion overtakes me, I lay and listen just to make sure they are alright.

It seems silly thinking about it because I spend so many hours trying to get them to sleep and sleep longer. But then I hover around just to make sure they are breathing.

The thought of my babies being taken from SIDS is utterly terrifying but according to the Center for Disease Control about 3,500 babies in the United States die suddenly and unexpectedly each year.

Here are few common questions and answers that I had regarding the risk of SIDS.

Why does SIDS happen?

The exact cause of SIDS is unknown. But more and more research evidence suggests that infants who die from SIDS are born with brain abnormalities or defects.

These defects are typically found within a network of nerve cells that send signals to other nerve cells. The cells are located in the part of the brain that probably controls breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and waking from sleep.

At the present time, there is no way to identify babies who have these abnormalities, but researchers are working to develop specific screening tests. But scientists believe that brain defects alone may not be enough to cause a SIDS death. Evidence suggests that other events must also occur for an infant to die from SIDS.

How common is SIDS?

SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age.

About 3500 babies a year die from SIDS. It is slightly more common in boys than in girls.

What age is SIDS most likely to occur?

Most SIDS deaths occur when in babies between 1 month and 4 months of age, and the majority (90%) of SIDS deaths occur before a baby reaches 6 months of age. However, SIDS deaths can occur anytime during a baby's first year.2 

Are SIDS and suffocation the same thing?

SIDS and suffocation are completely different. SIDS are deaths without a clear cause. Both are categorized under the term “Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)”. Half of these SUID’s are SIDs and the other half is due to accidental causes, such as suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation

Risk of SIDS

While we cannot 100% prevent SIDS there are some things that we can do to reduce the risk of SIDS.

1. Place your baby on his or her back for all sleep times—for naps and at night.

The back sleep position is the safest position for all babies until they are 1 year old. If baby rolls over on his or her own from back to stomach or stomach to back, there is no need to reposition the baby.

2. Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.

Never place baby to sleep on soft surfaces, such as on a couch, sofa, waterbed, pillow, quilt, sheepskin, or blanket. These surfaces can be very dangerous for babies. Do not use a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, infant sling or similar products as baby's regular sleep area.

3. Breastfeed your baby to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Babies who breastfeed, or are fed breastmilk, are at lower risk for SIDS than are babies who were never fed breastmilk.

4. Have the baby share your room, not your bed.

Having a separate safe sleep surface for the baby reduces the risk of SIDS and the chance of suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment.


5. Keep soft objects, such as pillows and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area.

Crib bumpers are linked to serious injuries and deaths from suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation. Keeping these and other soft objects out of baby's sleep area is the best way to avoid these dangers.

6. Do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.

Second-hand smoke really increases the incidence of SIDS.

7. Offer a pacifier at night and during naps times.

Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS for all babies, including breastfed babies.

8. Don't let baby overheat when sleeping.

Dress your baby in sleep clothing, such as a wearable blanket, like these, designed to keep him or her warm without the need for loose blankets in the sleeping area. Dress baby appropriately for the environment, and do not overbundle. Parents and caregivers should watch for signs of overheating, such as sweating or the baby's chest feeling hot to the touch.

9. Keep baby current on vaccinations.

Vaccines not only protect baby's health, but research shows that vaccinated babies are at lower risk of SIDS.

So there you have it. These are 9 fairly easy ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and can give you some peace of mind.

If your family has ever been affected by SIDs my heart goes out to you.

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