There are over 3,500 infants in the United States who die of a condition called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome every year. SIDS can be prevented rather easily if parents follow the methods prescribed by their pediatricians and make sure to sleep in the same room so that they are more likely to be alerted to any problems in time to act. We hope that the following information will help you avoid the common mistakes that place children at risk of SIDS and other causes of sleep related death.
How to Safely Put Your Child to Sleep
It is important to understand that it is normal for newborns to sleep in 3-4 hour shifts and for up to 16 hours per day. The primary reason your child will wake up at this point is due to hunger. Since you will share some sleep hours with your child, it is imperative that you are able to keep him or her safe from any potential dangers that could result in suffocation or choking and that you are in close proximity. Here are some precautions you should take.
- Make sure your infant is put to bed on his or her back until at least a year old. It is a common misconception that this position could actually increase the risk of suffocation, but the opposite is true. The natural gag reflex will wake the child and cause him or her to clear the air path.
- If your infant learns to roll onto his or her stomach, this is okay as long as he or she is able to roll both ways.
- You should not share the bed with an infant, and instead should place the child in a crib or bassinet in your bedroom, close to your bed so that you are in close proximity.
- Stuffed toys, blankets and other toys pose a hazard and should be removed from the crib when your infant is asleep.
- It is important that the surface of the crib or bassinet is firm and complies with the CPSC standards for safety. Soft surfaces pose a hazard, and any surface that leaves an indentation when you press down on it is not firm enough.
- Never let your infant sleep on a couch or chair, as there are numerous ways he or she can be hurt. In addition to the risk of suffocation, he or she may fall off of the couch or chair.
- Do not allow your infant to fall asleep upright in a car seat or stroller. This increases the risk of suffocation. If he or she falls asleep, move him or her from the seat or stroller to the crib.
- Use a pacifier to help your child fall asleep. This can help reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Consider breastfeeding, as studies have shown this significantly reduces the chance of sudden death.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy or following birth. Even if you smoke away from the child, the toxins can cling to your clothing where they will be inhaled by your child and cause respiratory problems. Your car and home should be free of smoke.
- If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s sleep, talk to your doctor and review possible solutions.
Be Wary of Products that Claim to Reduce SIDS Risk
Some manufacturers of baby products have begun to claim that their devices prevent SIDS when there is no evidence to back their claims. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a statement warning that these products don’t actually provide any proven benefit. Instead, follow your pediatrician’s instructions and share the room with your child for the first year so that you can be alerted to any signs of distress.
For more information about safe sleep for your infant, you can refer to the following resources.