Avoiding SIDS

By Ann Griswold • Published: May 28th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

No one checks on a sleeping infant more obsessively than a new mom or dad, and there’s a good reason for their concern. Sudden Infant Death syndrome remains the third leading cause of death in babies younger than one.

Now researchers say despite educational campaigns to create safer sleeping environments, as many as ninety-six percent of all babies who die from SIDS are exposed to a known risk factor. And nearly eighty percent are exposed to more than one hazard, such as tobacco smoke, co-sleeping, sleeping on the side or back, and loose or soft bedding.

SIDS strikes without warning, killing babies in their sleep. Why some infants succumb to SIDS and others don’t remains a mystery, but certain factors increase the risk of death. These include prematurity or a brain defect that makes it hard for the infant to deal with breathing challenges.

Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey studied nearly two hundred and fifty cases of SIDS. Despite the popular “Back to Sleep” campaign that encourages parents to place infants on their backs for naps, the researchers found that seventy percent of the deceased infants were placed on their sides or stomachs to sleep. Almost half of all SIDS cases occurred in households where the mother smoked. And only two of the cases were apparently risk-free.

Concerned about your infant’s sleep environment? Ask your pediatrician how you can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. And be sure to remind your child’s other caregivers, especially grandparents, that baby sleeps best on her back. Sweet dreams!