Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age, sometimes known as crib death.
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that many magazines targeted toward women often portray infants sleeping on their stomachs or on their sides, sleeping on a soft surface, or surrounded by soft or loose bedding. All are considered unsafe sleeping positions.
Doctor Margaret Solomon, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health Services says today's media messages can be confusing. She suggests that moms consider dressing up the rest of the nursery as much as you want but keeping the crib free of fluffy blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and bumper pads.
“Certainly it is hard because everyone wants to have an adorable nursery and there's lots of stuff sold that's probably not the best thing for child safety,” says Solomon. “Even things like bumpers on the crib, the little soft things that go around the crib to prevent the baby from banging their head, are probably not the safest because there have been a few incidences of baby getting their head stuck between the bumper and the edge of the crib.”
SIDS deaths happen most often when babies are between two and four months old. It is the leading cause of death in babies one month to one year old. Those deaths tend to peak in winter months. SIDS deaths in the U.S. have dropped by more than half since 1992, when "back to sleep" messages - like the one from Baby Your Baby - were seen in the media.
Solomon says that parents should also be aware that tobacco smoke is associated with an increased risk for SIDS, as well as putting baby to sleep in an overly warm room, and sleeping with your baby.
“In many cultures around the world, co-sleeping is the norm,” says Solomon. ”I think it's a very individual choice and I think the most important thing is that parents know the data about it and understand that there is a slightly increase risk.”
Study results released last year show that young infants who sleep in bedrooms with fans have a 70 percent lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome than babies who sleep in less well-ventilated rooms. Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Put your healthy baby on its back to sleep. If your baby has problems breathing or spits up a lot after feeding, ask your doctor about how your baby should sleep.
- No smoking near the baby. Do not smoke during pregnancy and do not let others smoke near your baby.
- Do not let your baby get too hot. Dress your baby in as much or as little as you would wear. Do not wrap your baby in lots of blankets or clothes. If your baby is sweating, has damp hair, or a heat rash, he or she may be too hot. A baby that has a fever, is breathing fast, or is not able to rest may also be too hot.
- Put your baby to sleep on a firm mattress. Do not let the baby sleep on soft things, like cushions, pillows, blankets, the couch, sheepskins, foam pads, or waterbeds. Your baby does not have the strength to push their face away from something that may keep them from getting the air they need. This is sometimes called positional asphyxia.
- Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding has been shown to be good for your baby.