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There are no words to describe the devastation of losing your baby suddenly and unexpectedly. As the leading cause of death for infants under age 1, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of new parents. But research has taught us ways to help reduce the risk of SIDS and save more babies' lives.
In June 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated safe sleep guidelines for babies that emphasized the point that co-sleeping is not safe for infants under any circumstances.
The new guidelines also urged parents to keep cribs clear of anything but a firm mattress with a flat, fitted sheet. No bumpers, no blankets, no toys.
They also advise parents to avoid any products such as baby rockers that have more than a 10 percent incline.
The best way to reduce the risk of SIDS is to always put your baby to sleep on his/her back. This American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation has since reduced the incidence of SIDS by almost one-half.
SIDS is most likely to occur between 1-4 months of age. It affects boys more often than girls, and most SIDS deaths occur in the winter. Babies born premature, as a twin or multiple, or with a sibling who had SIDS are at higher risk. Babies born to mothers who smoked or abused substances during pregnancy, teen moms, or those who received late prenatal care are also at higher risk.
Researchers believe that a combination of several conditions, including medical vulnerability, rather than a single risk factor, contributes to SIDS. While many conditions are out of our control, one we can control is sleep environment.
Remember these guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS:
Remember: babies sleep safest on their backs. Always place your baby on his/her back for every sleep — for naps and at night. Do not co-sleep with your baby. Also, give your baby plenty of supervised tummy time when he/she is awake, as this helps strengthen his/her neck and shoulder muscles and prevent flat spots on the head.
As always, follow your doctor’s advice. If your baby stops breathing, goes limp or turns blue, call 911.
If you have lost a child to SIDS, there are many resources to help you cope. The SHARE Program supports those who experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant death. For more information, call 630-527-3263.
What does a safe sleep environment look like?
This blog was reviewed by Victoria Uribe, M.D., pediatrician with Elmhurst Clinic.
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