Nothing is more devastating than losing the baby, especially to something that has no explanation and comes so suddenly. Even today, the exact cause of SIDS remains unknown.
Although doctors cannot put their finger on the ultimate cause of SIDS, there are certain ways to prevent it.
In this article, we are going to dive deeper into the following topics:
1. What is SIDS?
2. SIDS and SUDI
3. Who is at Risk of SIDS?
4. “Triple-Risk Model”
5. 13 Ways to Reduce Risk of SIDS
Each mother-to-be should be aware of the SIDS’s danger. Therefore, without further discussions, let us get straight to the point.
WHAT IS SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is an abrupt death of a baby at age under one year. Usually, this syndrome is considered the cause of a baby’s death that has no other explanation. In case if an investigation, review of clinical history, or autopsy show nothing that would have possibly caused a death, babies are diagnosed with SIDS.
SIDS and SUDI
SIDS falls into a category that has an emphasis on unexplained rather than unexpected. SUDI is a Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy. In this case, babies die suddenly, but the cause of death is explained eventually (cardiac dysfunction, infection, etc.)
WHO IS AT RISK OF SIDS
Each year, nearly 2 300 babies die of SIDS in the US alone. Statistics say that boys are somehow more presupposed to the syndrome rather than girls.
Babies between 1 and 4 months of age are more presupposed to SIDS. Besides, most deaths occur in early spring, autumn, and winter.
Although it is unknown what causes SIDS, there are some factors, which put babies at risk.
SIDS risk factors:
- Overheating during the sleep
- Fluffy blankets and toys
- Too soft surface
- Little or no parental care
- Babies born to very young mothers (younger than 20 years old)
- Exposure to passive smoking
- When babies sleep on their stomach or the side rather than on their back
- Mothers who smoke during their pregnancy
- Babies who had a sibling that died of SIDS
Although the exact causes are unknown, many researchers believe that babies cannot wake up when there is almost no oxygen. Usually, when babies start rebreathing carbon dioxide (when sleeping on their bellies or under thick covers), their brain gets the impulse (from high levels of carbon dioxide in their blood) to wake up.
The arousal center activates, the baby wakes up and breathes faster to get more oxygen. However, not all little ones wake up.
The “Triple-Risk Model” holds that there are three conditions, which can cause SIDS:
- The baby has an underlying abnormality (like brainstem). It makes a little one unable to respond to a high level of carbon dioxide in blood or too low oxygen.
- Triggering events. These can be sleeping on a tummy.
- Vulnerable state. Babies are small and vulnerable during the first months of their life.
Check our The Ultimate Guide to Safety for Babies and Kids. Learn the achievable solutions to the biggest issues we are experiencing as parents.
11 WAYS TO REDUCE RISK OF SIDS
As we have already mentioned, there are certain SIDS risk factors. Therefore, here are 11 ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.
1. Second-Hand Smoke
You don’t have to be a smoker to smoke. It sounds weird, but it’s true. Passive smokers get as much damage to their health as the actual people who are smoking.
Now, if a grownup’s lungs suffer irreversible damage, imagine what can happen to a baby’s lungs.
A smoke-free environment is what your baby needs. I often hear that people say, “I will smoke outside, and the smell will wear off soon.”
I don’t want to disappoint you, but I have to. The smell stays on the hands, baby clothes, breath, and hair. It gives a risk of third-hand smoking.
Babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to die of SIDS. If a mother-to-be smokes ten cigarettes a day, then a child is four times more likely to get SIDS.
Therefore, babies from home with a smoker in it are 60% more likely to die of SIDS. Therefore, the best way would be to give up smoking.
2. Sleeping Position
Babies are much smaller than a crib you are putting them in. There is a risk that a little one can get under the covers and wiggle to the bottom of the crib while being asleep.
You can place a baby at the bottom of a crib and tuck the blanket into its edges. This way, a blanket will not become loose. Besides, a little one will not get under the covers.
Note that blankets should not reach further than the baby’s shoulders. Besides, forget about putting a hat on a little one. If you follow these little instructions, a baby will not get overheated and maintain a comfortable temperature.
Twins, on the other hand, will need their own space. For instance, each child must have a personal bassinet in order to prevent overheating. Unlike bassinets, cribs are more spacious.
Therefore, you can put babies with their feet to the bottom at each end. However, you understand that they will need separate cribs as soon as they start to move about.
3. Clear Crib
There are tons of bumpers and stuffed toys that will look perfect in a crib. The level of aesthetically looking baby nursery is overwhelming. However, beautiful does not mean necessary or safe for this matter.
Even though all of these beautiful products are made for children, they can threaten a child’s life. For instance, pillows, toys, crib bumpers, sleep positioners, and thick blankets can cause suffocation.
Babies roll around, and it is easy for them to be entangled or trapped. Because of this, a little one is at a higher risk of SIDS.
Furthermore, in such states as New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, and Chicago, bumpers are illegal. More and more states are considering this matter and are likely to follow.
Baby sleep positioners are also banned because they pose a threat to little one’s health. It is even more dangerous if a baby tosses and turns. In this case, sleep positioner is dangerous and can become what causes SIDS.
SIDS prevention includes such, as one may think, trivial things as beddings.
Quilts, duvets, and fleece blankets look so cozy and cute that parents don’t even think about the threat these goods pose. Because they are quite thick and warm, a baby might overheat. Furthermore, when a baby starts wriggling around, it is easy for a little one to be trapped underneath it.
Forget about pillows altogether. They pose the risk of SIDS the same way as the enumerated above things. Furthermore, pillows create a poor sleeping position for a little one.
Because pillow tilts baby’s head forward, a neck curves, and a chin tilts forward. As a result, a baby cannot breathe properly.
A cellular cotton blanket is the best option for your baby. A little one can breathe through the blanket if it gets over the baby’s head.
Baby sleep sacks are also a great choice, so if you want to get one, make sure they fit a little one’s age range.
The topic is quite controversial, for there is no evidence that it puts a child at risk of SIDS. Therefore, here are some tips for you to make swaddling safer:
- Use muslin cloth or other lightweight fabric;
- Don’t swaddle a baby above its shoulders;
- Check on a little one regularly to see if they are not overheating;
- Do not swaddle a baby too tightly;
- Never put a baby to sleep on its belly;
A right mattress must be firm and flat. It will support a little one’s head and prevent its chin from tilting down. Also, make sure to get a breath-through mattress, so in case a baby rolls to the side, a little one could breathe.
It would also be great to get waterproof mattress covers so that it is easier to clean the crib. It will prevent a little one from getting bacteria that can make a child sick. Remember that hygiene is a top priority, so it is best to get a new mattress, especially if you are not aware of a “story” of a second-hand one.
In case you cannot afford a new one, you should check the second-hand mattress for any damages, holes, rips, etc. Before using it, clean and air it. Also, fresh linen would be a perfect decision.
7. Set Up A Crib
Learn about all of the features the crib has. It does not matter whether it is a new one or second-hand. In case of the last, buy only a bad that has an instruction manual or if there is one online.
Make sure that it is in good condition, and a baby can’t operate it. Also, remember that the mattress must be a perfect fit for the bed you choose.
Check our How to Choose a Perfect Baby Crib. Read on to learn helpful tips on choosing the best crib for your baby!
8. Pacifiers and SIDS
There are many opinions as to whether a pacifier reduces the risk of SIDS or not. Some say that it does. However, in other cases, there is no evidence to link the two together.
Besides, there is an issue that a pacifier can hinder breastfeeding. Therefore, it is best to start using one somewhere around four weeks old. At this time, the breastfeeding process is established.
If you decide to use a pacifier, you need to continue using it each time a little one goes to sleep. The babies, who are used to falling asleep with a pacifier, are at risk of SIDS if they go without one.
Use a pacifier each time a baby goes to sleep to introduce it to a little one. Use it until a baby is 5-6 months old. Also, please don’t use any cords or holders for a pacifier, for they present a danger of strangling.
9. Room Temperature
Because overheating is one of the SIDS risk factors, it is crucial to maintain a comfortable temperature in the baby’s room. The room must always be 61-68°F (16-20°C).
There are many ways to cool down the room. For one, you can use a fan. However, don’t point it at a little on.
The second option is natural ventilation. You can open a window for a few minutes just to let some fresh air in. Besides, it would be great to get curtains from a thick material, because they do not allow the sunlight into the room.
When speaking about a cold room, you can use a heater. However, remember to position it at a safe distance from a child and always turn it off if a baby sleeps near it.
To check the baby’s temperature, feel a little one’s tummy or neck. In case it is hot and sweaty, you should take off a layer of baby clothing.
If a baby is cold, then the best way to keep a child warm is to hold it. Skin to skin will warm a baby up, and after you can add a layer of baby clothes.
Remember not to put a hat on a sleeping baby because they will not be able to regulate their heat.
Always check on the baby. When a little one is sick and has a fever, you should remove some baby clothes (a baby can overheat.)
10. Sleep On A Back
Putting a baby to sleep on its back can largely reduce SIDS risk because this way, nothing hinders the baby’s breathing. In case a little one has rolled to the side, turn it back. As soon as your baby can move from side to side, a little one will be able to turn to breathe easily.
Since 1991 the figures of babies that died from SIDS have lowered because of the right sleeping position.
In case you worry about spit-ups, you should know that from birth to around six months of age, a little one has a reflex that helps them swallow fluids near the airway or cough them out.
Breastfeeding is one of the SIDS prevention methods. Mother’s milk is rich in immunity boosters and antibodies that a little one needs to grow strong. It helps a baby to fight infections and reduces the risk of allergy.
Therefore, it is recommended to breastfeed a baby for the first six months of their life (at least). Also, if you are giving a baby formula, try combining it with breastfeeding.
Check our How to wean a baby from breastfeeding: Tips to make it easier for you and your baby. Learn Methods of weaning the baby away from breastfeeding!
12. Give A Baby Some Room
A baby needs its space for at least the first six months of its life. It can be a crib or a bassinet near your side of the bed. It would also help if you gave a little one its own space in your room.
Know the risks. Sometimes co-sleeping can lead to a risk of SIDS.
For instance, if a child has breathing conditions, is premature, or has neurological conditions, it is best to refuse co-sleeping.
Parents, on their part, can pose a threat to a child as well. Smoking, obesity, drinking, sleep conditions, or drug use are factors that put a baby at a higher risk of SIDS.
13. Sleeping Products
Although the baby items market has some useless things, it also offers many useful, for instance, a co-sleeping crib. It is perfect for mothers, who don’t want to risk by putting a little one into bed with them, who breastfeed, or those who have had a C-section.
Sleep monitors detect any changes in the baby’s breathing and oxygen saturation. They can be perfect helpers or triggers for anxiety at the same time.
You need to understand that like any machine, this one can also malfunction, so keep this in mind if you want to get a sleep monitor for a little one.
A thermometer is one of the essentials. You will need to check the temperature and make sure that it is perfect for the baby.
Because SIDS is still being studied, there is no ultimate way to reduce the risk of SIDS to zero. However, now you are aware of factors that can cause this mysterious syndrome, so you can do everything in your power can to prevent them.
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