Many first-time parents have a lot of anxiety about the health and safety of their baby. Is he too warm or too cold? My baby is sneezing; could he have the flu? Could she be constipated? Did she gain enough weight? Will vaccines harm my baby? What is this bump? And the list goes on. One of the biggest sources of anxiety for parents of young infants is a scary yet mysterious acronym: SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The term “SIDS” is used when a young infant (often younger than 6 months of age) dies mysteriously while asleep in bed, and no cause of death could be determined. It is a devastating and tragic loss for families and has prompted anxious parents to routinely check to make sure their loved one is still breathing. Perhaps a worried parent has even given their baby a gentle shake just to elicit a groan or called upon their spouse for a second opinion that breathing has, in fact, been confirmed. As a mother of two (with one being an infant) I am guilty of obsessive checking as well.
Fortunately, the incidence of SIDS has gone down dramatically since 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended putting babies to sleep on their back. Below is a summary of recommendations that are attributed to the lower incidence of SIDS.
AAP recommendations for the first year of life:
· Put baby on his/her back for every sleep
· Use a firm sleep surface
· No second-hand smoke exposure
· Pacifier use during sleep time
· Avoid over-heating
· Keep soft object, loose bedding and crib bumpers out of the crib
This year the AAP expanded these recommendations to include:
· Breastfeeding for at least 6 months
· Immunizations (level B evidence)
You’ll notice that bed-sharing did not make the list and, in fact, the AAP advises against co-sleeping, not necessarily because it raises the risk of SIDS but because bed-sharing has been responsible for some cases of suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia. Parents who smoke, sleep on a water bed or sofa, use recreational drugs (including alcohol) or take certain medications should not be co-sleeping. Talk to your child’s doctor about how co-sleeping can be done safely and discuss any other concerns you have regarding your infant’s sleep environment.
If you have endured the loss of a loved one to SIDS, you are not alone. Talk to your doctor about options to support your grieving process.
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