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Below we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about SIDS so you can find out faster what SIDS is and how to reduce your family’s risk.
1) WHAT IS SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (SIDS)?
SIDS is the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation and review of the symptoms the infant had prior to dying and pertinent medical and family history. For a medical examiner or coroner to determine the cause of the death, a thorough case investigation including examination of the death scene and a review of the infant’s clinical history must be conducted. A complete autopsy needs to be performed.
- SIDS is NOT contagious.
- SIDS is NOT hereditary.
- SIDS is NOT caused by suffocation.
- SIDS is NOT caused by immunization.
- SIDS is NOT caused by abuse or neglect.
- SIDS is NOT your fault.
- SIDS is NOT predictable.
2) WHEN IS SIDS MOST LIKELY TO OCCUR?
Most SIDS deaths occur when a baby is between 2 and 4 months of age. The risk of SIDS then diminishes during the first year of life. The diagnosis of SIDS is not used after 1 year of age.
3) WHAT IS THE BACK TO SLEEP CAMPAIGN?
The Back to Sleep campaign recommends placing healthy infants on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) leads the campaign, along with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and other Federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is the major private sponsor, along with the SIDS Alliance and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs. The campaign was launched in 1994 with a toll-free number, pamphlets, posters, and videos in an effort to reach every infant nursery in the country. In March 1997, Tipper Gore became national campaign spokesperson.
For some older parents and grandparents, Back to Sleep goes against the advice they were given years ago to prevent babies from choking on spit up. But studies have shown the choking doesn’t happen; that babies naturally swallow any fluid that comes into their mouths, Street said. For babies battling reflux, pediatricians are now generally recommending the mattress be raised from underneath instead of using wedges that raise the baby up. There’s a risk that the baby can slide down the wedge and crimp their airway or get trapped on the side. The windpipe is only as big as the pinkie finger.
4) IS THE CAMPAIGN SUCCESSFUL?
Yes, this campaign has been increasingly successful in reaching parents and other caregivers. We have seen a change from 70% of babies placed on their stomachs to sleep in 1992 to 21% in 1998. The death rate from SIDS declined by 42% between 1992 and 1998, the first significant decrease in SIDS deaths in the U.S. Studies have shown that countries where caregivers have switched from placing babies on their stomachs to their backs to sleep have reduced their total SIDS deaths by as much as 50 percent. 2,000 fewer infants die of SIDS in the U.S. each year due to this simple measure. Babies who routinely sleep on their backs and are unaccustomed to sleeping on their stomachs are at an 18 times higher risk of SIDS when placed on their stomachs by relatives or caregivers. Be sure to inform baby sitters, daycare providers, grandparents and everyone else who cares for your infant. Do not assume that everyone knows about Back to Sleep.
5) IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO PREVENT SIDS?
At this time, there is no way of predicting which newborns will succumb to SIDS. However, there are a few measures parents can take to lower the risk for their children:
- Place your healthy baby on their BACK TO SLEEP . Infants who fall asleep on their stomachs should be gently turned onto their backs. Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).
- DO NOT smoke around your baby
- Use firm, flat bedding with no toys or other soft bedding such as blankets or comforters in cribs made according to safety standards. Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets. Wedges, positioners, and bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment. Your baby’s crib should have railings no more than 2 3/8 inches apart (you can’t fit a soda can through them) and a firm mattress that fits snugly in the frame with a tightly fitted sheet
- Avoid overheating your baby. Babies should be kept warm, but not too warm. Dress your baby in as much or as little as you would wear. An overheated baby is more likely to go into a deep sleep from which it is difficult to arouse. Keep temperature in the baby’s room at a level that feels comfortable to an adult. Fans on a low setting in the infant’s room keep air circulating and reduce SIDS risk.
- Take good care of your baby and yourself before and after your pregnancy. This includes proper nutrition, abstinence from alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and frequent medical checkups beginning early in pregnancy. Take your baby to their health care provider for regular checkups, and immunizations. Breastfeed your baby, if possible . Parents need to have unusual symptoms checked out, particularly irregular breathing, apnea episodes, choking or gagging for no reason, or anything that seems unusual or out of the ordinary.
- Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS at naptime and bedtime.
- Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep. Avoid using a blanket or other covering over your baby’s face as a screen while your baby is sleeping. Bedding that bunches up around your baby’s face can obstruct the mouth and nose, causing potentially dangerous rebreathing of stale air.
- The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed. Infants are at risk who sleep with parents, siblings, or other relatives especially those whose instincts are impaired by exhaustion, drug or alcohol abuse, or who smoke. Sofas and chairs are particularly dangerous for sleeping infants.