Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is not entirely preventable. There are measures parents can take to reduce the risk of its occurrence, but to say it is entirely preventable would not be true. This is what makes SIDS so unsettling. There is plenty of research being done to examine potential causes, and there have been many findings that will help in reducing the risk of SIDS, but nothing is promised. With this in mind, we encourage parents, grandparents and older siblings to recognize the risk factors, and ensure that we are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Infants may be at risk to SIDS due to a number of contributing factors, but it’s cause is still unknown. There has been lots of progress made in the past 4 decades to determine potential causes of SIDS; every parent should know the following risk factors in order to reduce the likelihood of this occurrence. Also note that no single risk factor would be enough to cause SIDS, but if a few were combined it may trigger an at-risk infant to be affected.
- Infants sleeping on their sides or their tummy. Babies must sleep on their backs. In 1994, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other groups launched the Back to Sleep campaign, since then the occurrence of SIDS has dropped by 50%.
- Smoking. The chances of SIDS increases if the infant is exposed to cigarette smoke at any point in their young lives. This includes smoking during pregnancy, exposure to smoke during pregnancy, or if the infant is exposed to smoke after birth. Do not smoke in the home, in the car, or in any area where the baby spends time.
- Drinking or drug use during pregnancy has also been identified as a contributing factor to SIDS. Of course, they are related to many other kinds of health issues for the baby, so avoid them both.
- Low birth weight or premature births can contribute to SIDS. Prenatal care is a key factor in monitoring these two potential issues, it’s important to keep on top of doctor’s appointments and prenatal care to minimize these risks.
- Overheating while sleeping. Infants don’t need more coverings than you do. Use your judgement and watch for signs of overheating such as sweat, or damp hair. Excess blankets or head coverings are unnecessary. A blanket tightly tucked (but not too tight!) into the end and sides of the mattress is acceptable.
SIDS are not preventable, but these are good tips to reinforce a happy, healthy environment for your baby.
Safe Sleep Recommendations:
A Safe Sleep requires that the baby’s sleeping area is free of any objects that could be a cause of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) to the baby. Clutter such as blankets, toys, stuffed animals, and pillows should be removed for nap time, or bed time.
A key way to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is to be proactive with your baby’s sleeping environment, and be aware of any immediate risks every time you lay your baby down for a nap, or to sleep.
Here are some helpful tips in creating a Safer Sleeping environment for your baby:
- An infant should never sleep in the same bed, couch or recliner as another person, this is a risk for overlay or entrapment. The safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own crib, or bassinet. Even if you have twins or other multiples, it is recommended that they sleep separately.
- Extra items in a crib such as pillows, stuffed animals, or blankets should be removed for sleeping. The only things in the crib during sleep time should be a firm mattress and a fitted sheet. If a blanket is needed, make sure it is lightweight, thin and breathable.
- Soft bedding, pillows, or bumper pads are not recommended as they increase the risk of suffocation.
Check the date of your crib, make sure it is up to current standards. Health Canada recommends cribs no more than 10 years old.
- Check the crib frequently to make sure that it’s not damaged, and to ensure that the hardware is tight.
- One of the most important factors of a Safer Sleep is to lay your baby on their back for sleeping. If your baby rolls onto their tummy on their own, it’s okay to leave them because they are strong enough to roll back on their own as well.
The Canadian “Back to Sleep” Campaign started in 1993, and had a 50% decrease in SIDS deaths.
Follow these recommendations for Safe Sleeping and share them with your loved ones.