As new parents, we’ve all laid awake at night worrying about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
It’s unsettling that we don’t know the exact causes of “crib death.” But here is what we do know: infants are at the highest risk of SIDS between two and three months of age.
Even more hopeful is the research. Researchers have been able to determine what safe sleep patterns you can practice to decrease the risk of SIDS affecting your family.
As parents, we can’t control it all. Physical factors such as babies who are born with brain abnormalities, a low birth weight, or who have had a recent cold, are more susceptible to SIDS. But there are physical conditions we, as parents, can control.
Parents can directly reduce the risk of SIDS by following these 6 safe sleep patterns:
1. Place your baby on her back, always.
Babies who are placed on their stomachs or sides have more difficulty breathing.
Parents should emphasize safe-sleeping practices with their providers. Don’t assume that caregivers will put your baby to bed exactly how you have been doing at home.
Fact: Babies are 18x more likely to die from SIDS if they are put down to sleep on their stomachs when they are accustomed to being placed on their back.
2. Place your baby on a firm sleeping surface.
Fluffy blankets and loose bedding can block an infant’s airway. A recent study revealed too many babies are still being put to bed unsafely.
Fact: 21% of one-month olds were placed on unsafe sleep surfaces. It’s important not to prop your baby on pillows to make the sleeping surface more “comfortable.”
3. Share a room with your baby, but not a bed.
Studies confirm that the risk of SIDS is lower when the baby sleeps in the same room, but not sharing a bed with parents.
Fact: Over half of infant sleep deaths (69%) occurred while the infant was sharing a sleep surface. The risk of suffocation is much higher when bed sharing.
4. Avoid using heavy blankets or pajamas.
When infants overheat, their arousal response is suppressed. Sleep sacks are a good alternative to loose blankets.
Fact: Approximately 90% of infants had loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, bumper pads, and sleep positioners, in their sleep areas.
5. Offer a pacifier, but don’t force it.
An infant sucking on a pacifier at nap time and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS. You don’t need to place it back in baby’s mouth if it falls out during sleep, but it’s another method to try.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it is recommended to wait until baby is 3–4 weeks old before using a pacifier to prevent nipple confusion.
6. Breastfeed during the first six months, if possible.
The phrase “breast is the best” has been touted loud and clear. We understand this isn’t possible for everyone, which is why the other 5 sleep recommendations are equally, if not more, important.
Fact: The rate of SIDS was 60% lower among infants who had any amount of breastfeeding compared to those who didn’t breastfeed. For moms who exclusively breastfeed, babies have a 70% decreased risk of SIDS.
We may not be able to control every factor of SIDS, but as you follow these 6 safe sleep patterns, you can help reduce the risk for your baby.