SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

SIDS can occur in any family regardless of gender, skin-color or living conditions. Be aware of the possible threat and prevent it with preparing yourself and your baby!

The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third leading cause of infant death (U.S., 2011)[1], which usually occurs during sleep, unexpectedly without any medical prediction. It also remains unexplained after the autopsy. Victims of SIDS are usually found in the bed or the crib after having been put to bed, without any signs of suffering or struggle.

SIDS - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Unfortunately people tend to think that certain diseases and events can only happen to someone else, as they always just hear about someone, who knew someone who read it somewhere that a mother found her child dead in the crib. As a result, these people become careless and do not mind the advisors, books and articles which are there to help them, and eventually they become the mother who was mentioned in the previous sentence. This article aims to call for the attention of these people. The relevant statistical data shows that half of the infant deaths are a result of SIDS, this percentage seems even higher if we consider the fact that 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]. In the following we aim to prepare all parents by evaluating on the different aspects which can increase or decrease the possibility of SIDS, so they can prevent their infant of this terrible event.

SIDS 1-12 month

Sleeping Conditions

As SIDS is most likely to happen during sleep, this is probably the most significant aspect of all, which should be evaluated on. In case of adults, everyone has different habits when it comes to sleeping, some like to sleep on their back, some on their sides or stomach. On the other hand, in case of infants, this freedom cannot be guaranteed for them, as it can dramatically increase the occurrence of SIDS. It is very important  that infants have to sleep on their back, do not let your baby sleep on their tummy or side as it can result in a 5 times greater risk of SIDS![3] Since the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign started in 1994, the overall SIDS rates have decreased by 50%[4], which also justifies the previous statement.

SIDS never sleep in adult bed

Not only the sleeping position is important but the sleeping conditions as well, such as place, room temperature, bedding or the objects in the crib. Studies have shown that it is safer for the baby to sleep separately from their parents, as infants who stay in the parental bed at night have a 40 times greater risk of SIDS[3]. We would recommend keeping your child in a separate bed at least until the age of 1 year. The bed should be separate, but the room itself should not. By placing the crib in the parent’s bedroom the possibility of SIDS can be decreased to a great extent, as if something happens to the baby at night, the parents can realize it and act immediately. Sharing a room with your baby can decrease the risk of SIDS by 50%[5].

SIDS sharing a room

The next thing, which a parent has to take care of, is the temperature of the room, where the infant sleeps. Parents tend to fall into extremities due to too much caring; do not turn the temperature too high, nor too low. It should rather be little lower than too hot as it can cause the stifling of the baby, otherwise.

Another serious matter, which should be taken into consideration, is the bedding as it is one of the most common causes of the sudden death.
If an infant sleeps on a way too soft bedding it can cause 5 times greater risk of SIDS[6]
. Therefore you should not use any soft bedding, pillows or blankets, especially because it can cover the baby’s head and stifle him/her. The same thing is true for the toys and bumpers. That is the one thing, which every expert agrees on; do not put anything into the crib until a certain age! We know, that a mother would like to make the bedding soft, fluffy and pretty but it is not good for your baby, and when something can be fatal you should rather drop your desire for the esthetic value than risk your children’s life. The don’ts have been listed, but then what can one do? First of all, one can avoid the don’ts, that is a great prevention, second of all during night sleep sacks and pacifiers can be used and the baby should be kept near to the parents. This is the most that you can do during sleeping hours to protect your infant from SIDS.

Smoking

SIDS parents smoke

Although, you can secure your infant’s life with providing the appropriate sleeping conditions, there are some other aspects as well, which should be considered in order to protect the baby. Smoking is one of these. It is a fact that smoking during pregnancy can cause serious harm to the baby, but some parents may start it again after giving birth. Well, that is not recommended if one would like to decrease the chance of SIDS, as studies have shown that if both parents smoke during or after the pregnancy then the baby’s SIDS risk is 3.5 times greater than if neither parent smokes. If only the mother smokes, the risk is 2 times greater and if only the father, it is 1,5 times greater.[7] Either way, it is the best for the baby if no one smokes before, during or after birth nearby her/him. Bare this in mind when you light the next cigarette nearby your infant, you seriously risk the life of your loved one.

Nutrition

SIDS breast milk

However, it may seem irrelevant; nutrition is in fact a significant factor. Statistics have shown that for those infants who received breast milk for any duration the likelihood of SIDS was 60% lower[8]. Of course there are special cases when the children cannot receive breast milk because of lactose intolerance or some other allergy, in this cases it is not 100% sure that the baby will die unexpectedly, so do not be afraid and force breast milk on your child, but try to take measures in the before mentioned factors as the baby’s life can be secured with taking awareness in those.

Are you exposed to a greater risk?

Although it was mentioned in the beginning of the article that SIDS can occur regardless of gender, age and skin color, these factors in some cases can result in a greater risk. It still can happen to anyone, so the previous statement is not falsified and you do have to take measures no matter who you are and where you live. On the other hand, if you are a member of the following groups you need to pay even more attention to avoid the horrible case of SIDS.

Gender

SIDS boys girls

It is not yet revealed what can be the reason why genders do not have an equal chance of SIDS; the matter is unfortunately that they have different chances. Statistics have shown that almost 60% of unexplained infant deaths were boys[9] in the US (2004). Once again, the reason behind this fact is unknown, therefore it is hard to cope with it, but if you have a son you should take much awareness of the prevention of SIDS, as you are exposed to higher risk.

Weight

SIDS lower weight more risk

Those parents who have an infant born with a lower weight probably already know that they are exposed to more risk[10]. But it is important to know that SIDS is also amongst the things which risk increases when the baby was born with a lower weight than usual. The risk is in fact three times higher, that is why those parents who have a baby with an unusual weight have to be more cautious.

Age

SIDS parents age

It was already pointed out that SIDS can occur within the first year of the baby, but the ‘Age’ title does not refer to the infants now. In this case we would like to point out that if you are a younger parent you should pay more attention as the risk of SIDS is 2.5 times higher in babies born to younger parents(under 20), than those born to parents aged 20-35[11]. The reason for that is probably that parents under the age of 20 are less experienced and more likely to be careless. They are also less likely to sacrifice a lot for the baby, such as quit smoking. That means that the statistics about the age factor can be easily changed. If you are a young parent make sacrifices, take awareness and prevent your baby by applying the methods, which are mentioned in this article. This way you may change the statistics at this factor.

Nationality

SIDS by race

Statistics have shown that you should be more cautious if you are an American Indian or Alaska native as babies of this nationality have a 2.2 times more risk to die from SIDS[12]. Also for African-American babies the possibility is almost twice as much (1.8)[12], therefore if you are a member of these groups you should apply the before mentioned tactics and in that case you have better chance to prevent your infant of the unexpected death.

All in all, if you remain cautious and keep in mind to avoid those things you can greatly decrease the risk of SIDS. Also if you use the tactics outlined by the article your infant’s sleep can be secured to be safe and sound.

References

  1. National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 61, Number 6. Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011
  2. Safe to Sleep, Fast Facts About SIDS Led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  3. CJ FUNDATION for SIDS, SIDS Statistics by the numbers
  4. Safe to Sleep, Progess in Reducing SIDS Led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  5. SIDS and Kids, Room Sharing with baby
  6. National Institutes of Health: Bed Sharing with Siblings, Soft Bedding, Increase SIDS Risk
  7. Ask Dr Sears: 4 Ways Smoking Increases the Risk of SIDS
  8. WebMD Breastfeeding May Cut SIDS Risk
  9. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics (February 2008) SIDS Fact Sheet
  10. Baby Center: SIDS: Reducing your baby’s risk
  11. The Lullaby Trust
  12. Wikipedia: Sudden infant death syndrome

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