A devastating disorder, SIDS is medically known as sudden infant death syndrome. While the cause of the syndrome is unknown, several risk factors and preventative measures have been identified. One of the most important risk reduction factors is placing a baby on his or her back to sleep.
What is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome can be defined as the unexplained death, typically during sleep, of a seemingly healthy infant. The exact cause of the syndrome is unknown; however, several associated factors have been identified.
Brain abnormalities, low birth weight and respiratory infection have been deemed as physical factors linked to SIDS. Sleeping on the stomach or side, sleeping on a soft surface and sleeping with the parents are known environmental risk factors. Additional contributing factors include the sex of the baby, age, race, and family history of the condition. Mothers under the age of 20 who smoke, use drugs or alcohol and have inadequate prenatal care are also more likely to have babies affected by the condition.
Prevention Measures for Crib Death
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, several measures can be taken to protect the child and ensure a healthy infancy. Breast-feeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS and should be done exclusively for the first six months of life. Additionally, the baby should be placed on his or her back to sleep. A firm mattress free of thick, fluffy padding or bedding is also important. The crib should also be empty of bumper pads, pillows, fluffy toys and stuffed animals.
Clothing the baby in a sleep sack or other breathable sleep clothing and using only a lightweight blanket helps prevent the syndrome as well. Additionally, the child should sleep alone in his or her own bed not with the parents. This measure prevents suffocation. A pacifier offered at naptime and bedtime can also prevent the syndrome; however, breast-feeding mothers should wait until their babies are at least one month old and have established a comfortable nursing routine before offering a pacifier.
SIDS is an overwhelming but real condition that can put strain on a family. Effective preventative measures can be taken to avoid such a loss. Additionally, therapy and other emotional support following such a loss go a long way toward helping a family heal.