Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of a baby between the time they are born and their first birthday, usually happening in their sleep. It is also commonly referred to as crib death. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown but it appears that it may be associated with certain defects on the part of a child's brain that regulates breathing and sleep arousal. However, researchers have discovered some factors that may decrease the risk of SIDS. These include:
- Put baby to sleep on his back. Over the years, there have been numerous debates about this, but logic has it that babies have more access to air when they are on their backs. When babies are put to sleep on their stomachs or on their side (from which he can easily roll over on his stomach), the mattress or sleeping area can easily smother him. This applies to naps as well as longer sleep periods. Make sure anyone else handling your baby knows to put him down on his back when he sleeps.
- Avoid overdressing your baby. If it's too hot for you to wear a woolen sweater, it's probably too hot for your baby too. Too often, mothers are unnecessarily worried about their babies getting cold and end up overdressing them. This can easily cause your baby to overheat during their sleep.
- Lay your child on a firm bed without toys or blankets. All your baby needs is a fitted sheet to lie on. Put them down on a firm mattress, a crib or bassinet. If it is a bit chilly, swaddle him in a sheet.
- Quit smoking before you get pregnant. Research shows that babies born to women who smoked while pregnant die from SIDS three times more than those born to non-smokers. Second-hand smoke around your baby is also something you should avoid as it increases the chances of SIDS.
- Let your baby sleep in your room. Ideally, your baby should sleep in your room with you, but in their own crib or bassinet for six months to a year. Adult beds just aren't made for babies. So much can go wrong. They can suffocate between headboards slats, the space between frame/wall and mattress or if one parent accidentally rolls over, covering the baby's nose and mouth.
- Breastfeeding for the first six months at the very least also shows to lower the risk of SIDS. Experts say that babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives. If there's a chance that breastfeeding your baby may reduce the risk of SIDS, wouldn't you take it?
- Use of a pacifier without a string or strap at nap time and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS. However, if you are breastfeeding, wait until your baby is one month old and has mastered the art of breastfeeding before you introduce a pacifier.