Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: SIDS causes and tips for prevention
Find out why New Year's Day poses a higher risk for SIDS - plus know the risk factors and prevention tips to ensure your baby's safety while he sleeps!
A 2010 study has found that the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, increases by 33 percent on New Year's Day. This finding is based on 129,090 SIDS cases from 1973 to 2006.
Why the dramatic rise in number of cases? Researchers suspect alcohol consumption by parents and caretakers on New Year's Eve as the reason.
While more research has yet to be done on the link between SIDS and alcohol, the study concludes that alcohol appears to be a risk factor for SIDS since it diminishes parental capacity. For instance, under the influence of alcohol, parents may forget to put baby to sleep on his back, which may increase risk of SIDS since sleeping on his stomach or side may cause difficulty breathing.
However, researchers have yet to determine whether alcohol is an independent risk factor, a risk factor when combined with other known risk factors (e.g. forgetting to put baby to sleep on his back), or a proxy for risk factors associated with increased alcohol consumption (e.g. smoking).
What Causes SIDS?
The lack of findings on immediate causes or warning signs of SIDS is what makes it so frightening and devastating.
No one knows for sure what causes SIDS. What we do know, however, is that SIDS victims stop breathing and lack the ability to alert themselves to start breathing again.
Even with years of research given to find more about SIDS, there are still no easy answers when it comes to clearly identifying symptoms. Although the exact cause of SIDS is unknown, certain risk factors have been identified:
- SIDS is most prevalent in babies between the ages of two and four months, but that there are more than a few cases each year in babies up to one year of age
- Sex may be a factor as 3 out of 5 victims are boys
- Babies born with underlying vulnerabilities and abnormalities (like brain and heart abnormalities and respiratory infections)
- Babies exposed to certain stressors (such as sleeping tummy-down or on too soft bedding)
- Babies born prematurely or at a very low birth weight
- Babies born to mothers who are under the age of 20
- Babies who have suffered an apparent life-threatening event (e.g. babies who have turned pale and required resuscitation)
- Babies whose mothers smoked, drank alcohol, and consumed drugs during their pregnancy
- Babies with prolonged tobacco smoke exposure even after birth
- Babies who receive poor prenatal care
Continue reading to find out how parents can help lower the risk of SIDS...
Ways to Lower the Risk of SIDS
The incidence of SIDS varies among countries and ethnic groups, and Asia has been reported to have very low incidence rates.
In the United States, SIDS is the leading cause of infant death in the developed world, with 1500 reported cases in 2013 alone, according to the CDC.
Also known as “crib death,” SIDS happens mostly during sleep. Infants who die of SIDS show no signs of suffering. SIDS isn’t an illness or disease, however. When the exact cause of an infant’s death cannot be determined by autopsy or investigation, SIDS is the diagnosis given.
While there’s no clear way to prevent SIDS from happening, there are a number of practical precautions parents can take to lower the risk of SIDS:
1. Put your baby to sleep on his back
Babies placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs. This is because when infants sleep tummy-down, they’re more likely to overheat, breathe incorrectly, and rebreathe carbon dioxide air they’ve exhaled, which lacks oxygen.
If you’re worried about your baby developing a flat spot on his head after too much back time, you can always give your baby adequate amounts of tummy time while she’s awake and under your watchful eye.
So the next time yaya or lola insists on having the baby sleep on his tummy, gently take charge and say “No,” and tell them to wait until your baby is older and has more control over his body.
Continue reading for more tips on lowering the risk of SIDS...
2. Choose your bedding wisely
When buying baby bedding, go with the basics: a firm mattress, a fitted sheet, and as little blankets, quilts, and fluffy padding as possible.
Make sure to clear the crib of any linens, pillows, or stuffed toys that can accidentally move and block the baby’s airways during sleep. Should you give your baby a blanket, make sure it's breathable, in case your baby wiggles under it or pulls it over his head.
3. Remove the bumper pad
And most importantly, avoid using bumper pads in cribs. Doing so will decrease the risk of strangulation and entrapment, increase air flow into the crib, and lets you see your baby without any obstruction.
4. Co-sleep with your baby
There has been a lot of debate with co-sleeping and SIDS, but recent studies show that the rate of SIDS is lowest in cultures, such as in Asia, that traditionally share sleep. Not only does co-sleeping strengthen the bond between parents and babies, it also helps babies sleep better and more soundly.
Make sure your mattress is firm, that there’s enough space for you and your, and that there’s nothing that will obstruct your baby’s breathing.
If you’re not ready to co-sleep, just move the baby bassinet or crib closer to your bed. Always remember to trust your parental awareness – your bodies are so attuned to your newborn that you’ll wake up with even the slightest bit of uneasiness in your child.
Continue reading for more tips on lowering the risk of SIDS...
5. Don’t overheat your baby
In a tropical country like ours where it’s hot everyday of the year, there’s really a risk of overheating a newborn, especially when we alternate between air-conditioned and non air-conditioned rooms. It’s best to watch for signs of overheating like sweating and damp hair.
Make sure your baby’s room is cool, and not too warm or stuffy. Hot stuffy air makes it more difficult to breathe.
Unless your baby’s a premie, don’t over-layer baby clothing and swaddles. And to be sure, take your baby’s temperature now and again and make sure their body heat stays at a constant 36 degrees Celsius.
6. Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed
You all know about the benefits of breastfeeding, and reducing the risk of SIDS is actually one of them. The protective effect is strongest if you breastfeed your baby exclusively for six months, but even some breastfeeding is better than none – exclusively breastfeeding until 1 month of age already cuts the risk of SIDS in half.
Combine all these precautions with proper immunizations, infant care, regular pedia visits, and a good, clean environment (free of tobacco smoke, alcohol, and drugs) will give you the upper hand when it comes to avoiding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In SIDS’ case, prevention is definitely key.
7. Offer a pacifier
Let your baby use a pacifier to soothe themselves to sleep. The sucking reflex aids in consistent breathing.
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