Decrease the risk of SIDS

Having an infant can be tough—especially when it comes to sleep. Getting them to fall asleep and stay asleep can be hard…and it can rob you of much-needed rest. That’s why it can be tempting to let them fall asleep however they want—so long as they just go to sleep.

For infants under one year, however, there’s a hidden danger.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a condition that affects infants while they sleep. SIDS is to blame for between 2,000 and 4,000 infant deaths in the US every year. It usually happens between when the baby is one and four months old. The best thing that parents can do to prevent SIDS is to place kids on their back to sleep. Yet, despite the urging of doctors and campaigns, a study showed that only 43 percent of parents consistently do so.

“The most important part of SIDS prevention is consistency.” said Dr. Marie Lena, a Geisinger pediatrician. “For their safety, infants should be put to sleep on their backs 100 percent of the time. When an infant who is normally put on their back is put on their stomach, the risk of SIDS increases exponentially. That’s why it’s important to talk with grandparents and caregivers to make sure everyone understands the risk.”

Here are some preventive steps to avoid SIDS.

Back to sleep
When an infant is put to sleep on their stomach, the risk of SIDS can increase by as much as 12 times. This rate is even higher for infants who are normally back-sleepers who are laid on their stomach.

In 1994, a campaign called “Back to Sleep” (now called Safe to Sleep) raised awareness for putting children to bed on their backs.

The campaign was a success—it dropped the incidence of SIDS by 60 percent.

“The problem is that babies sleep sounder on their stomach,” said Dr. Lena. “And while sound sleep is good for most people, it is bad for infants because they don’t have a fully-developed arousal system for waking up.”

If they can’t breathe while they’re on their stomach, they can’t do anything to fix it; they can suffocate. Placing infants on their backs helps them sleep safely.

Keep the room “sleep-friendly”
The environment in the room can also cause SIDS. Rooms that are too hot or where cigarette smoke is present can contribute to SIDS. Loose items in the crib or on the baby’s body can, too.

“Where the baby sleeps is almost as important as how the baby is positioned,” said Dr. Lena. “Keep the thermostat in the baby’s room at a steady 68 degrees. Clear the crib completely; don’t let your infant sleep with stuffed animals, bumpers or blankets.”

Infants should never sleep on a soft surface; their mattress should always be firm. You should also avoid putting them to sleep in loose clothing.

Let them sleep on their own
As tempting as it is to sleep with your infant, it comes with some serious risks.

“Sleeping with your infant, whether on your bed or with things like co-sleepers can be very dangerous,” said Dr. Lena. “If you roll over on top of them or pull a blanket over them, you risk suffocating them. Babies need to sleep in their own bassinet.”

Marie Lena, MD, is a pediatrician at Geisinger Mount Pleasant and Geisinger Carbondale. To schedule an appointment, please call 800-275-6401 or visit myDocFinder online. 

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