Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS? Sometimes called “crib death”, SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 12 months. Not much is known about what causes SIDS – it can happen to any baby and this, in part, is what makes it so frightening. In this 10th of my series of SMALL TALK blogs, I focus on 6 ways of how you can minimize the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) happening to your baby.
Here we go:
6 Ways for your baby to have a safe sleep
1: “Back-to-sleep” method
When my two boys were born I got strict instructions to never lay them down to sleep on their backs as it was deemed to be bad to do so. Over the years, though, a lot of research has gone into ways in which SIDS might be reduced or even prevented and nowadays new moms are being advised to place their baby on his back for his naps and also for his night time sleep. This has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by 50%( https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/SIDS/Pages/progress.aspx)(http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/home/ovc-20322699)
One thing to remember is to increase his “tummy time” during his awake periods in order to avoid his head becoming misshapen from always being on his back. Another tip is that you can place your baby on his back with his head first to one side for his first nap and then turn his head to the other side the next time you put him down. If you alternate the way his head is turned, then his head will be less likely to become misshapen, but should it do so it normally corrects itself by the time the baby reaches his 1st birthday.
2: No loose bedding
One should also avoid using a soft mattress. Rather choose a firm one. Bumper pads, pillows, fluffy toys or loose bedding should be avoided. To put it simply, avoid putting anything in the baby’s crib or cot which could cover your baby’s head. Nowadays one can buy a “sleep sack” which resembles a sleeping bag, but it has sleeves through which you put your baby’s arms. Use of a sleep sack means you do not have to put any extra blankets in the cot as you can get sleep sacks tailored for both winter or summer use, depending on the material used. It’s also wonderful as your baby grows older, as it kind of prevents them getting a foothold to climb out of their cot!
As a baby cannot control his own body temperature, we have to do it for them. It is important not to overheat your baby, so dress him appropriately for sleep, especially if you are also using a sleep sack. You can always check that your baby is not too hot by touch and you can also see if his cheeks are turning bright red! The ideal temperature for a baby to sleep comfortably is around 20 deg C.
The DTP vaccination (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) is thought to also potentially reduce the risk of SIDS, although it must be said that there is a lot of controversy about whether this is true. Most babies get their first DTP shot before discharge from hospital but if you are having a home birth it would be wise to make sure that your baby is immunized with this vaccine.
5: Room sharing
Having your baby’s crib in your bedroom is also a good idea, at least for the first 6 months or so. A couple I know saved their little girl’s life by having her sleep in a co-cot next to their bed. They were instantly aware that she had stopped breathing the one night and were able to get her to breathe again by picking her up and waking her. They rushed her to the ER, but she was otherwise perfectly healthy with no reason to stop breathing. Since that incident they also bought a baby alarm to attach to her nappy, but thankfully she has never again experienced this and she is now a happy and healthy 20 month old adorable little girl!! Which brings me on to tip number 6:
Baby monitors are a wonderful invention, as are baby alarms. The baby alarm is a little device which you clip onto their nappy. These alarms make a loud noise should your baby stop breathing. The monitor lets you hear all the sounds that your baby makes and reassures you so that you know when he is just muttering in his sleep or is waking up for a feed. This way you can get some sleep too. I would recommend that all moms should invest in these two devices for peace of mind. Then you will also get a relatively good night’s rest as you will be instantly aware of any sounds coming from baby’s room and whether you need to respond or not.
A somewhat heartening fact is that SIDS happens very rarely in the first month after birth and the peak period where it may happen is between 2-4 months of age after which the risk declines.
Although little is known about the causes of SIDS there are a few things you CAN be assured of:
1: Immunisations or bad parenting does not cause SIDS
2: SIDS is not hereditary
3: SIDS is not contagious
4: SIDS is not anyone’s fault
My hope and my prayer is that no mom ever, should have to go through the devastating loss of a child and I hope that these few tips can at least help prevent SIDS happening in YOUR family.
Yours in newborn photography (my images are inspired by life, love & laughter!)