What Reduces SIDS? 12 Important Steps

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Asian baby on firm mattress

(reading time ~9 1/2 minutes) 

This article will delve into detail about "What reduces SIDS? 12 Important Steps". This is a guide to what parents need to know to help make their child safer from SIDS. 

Despite years of study, SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, continues to pose grave concerns for parents and the medical community.

According to Steven A. Shapiro, the head of the Pediatric Department at Abington Jefferson Health, SIDS is a symptom that indicates the immediate death of a baby that may have no explanation

The positive news is that since the Safe to Sleep Program was launched in 1994, the occurrence of SIDS has decreased by more than 50%. The program has saved 17,000 lives in the UK, 3,000 in New Zealand, and 40,000 in the United States.

However, the death rates are still high, and the CDC estimates that 3,400 unexpected baby deaths still occur in the US annually.

SIDS Prevention Guidelines:12 Effective Steps

Unfortunately, one cannot avoid all occurrences of SIDS; this is because there is a likelihood that SIDS has multiple biological and natural factors that cause it. However, one should take the following critically important measures to lessen your baby's risk of SIDS. 

1. Place Your Baby To Sleep On Their Back 

Any time an infant sleeps on their stomach or sides, their risk of SIDS increases significantly because these positions might suffocate them.

While the infants sleep on their bellies, their face is against the bed or other sleeping surfaces. The baby may not get sufficient airflow in its respiratory system and may cause death if they stay in that position for a long time.

When babies sleep on their stomachs, rebreathing oxygen-depleted air can increase if they lie in a crib filled with other things, making breathing more difficult. Rebreathing air causes the baby's oxygen level to fall and its carbon dioxide level to rise.

The area of the brain that aids in controlling breathing and awakening during sleep may not function correctly in babies who succumb to SIDS.

It is crucial to lay the baby down on their back when putting them to sleep in their bed, whether for short rests, during standard sleeping time, or any other time. Anyone who takes care of an infant must know this, from grandparents to babysitters.

When a baby is used to sleeping on their back and is suddenly laid on their stomach, the risk of SIDS is far greater. Additionally, never allow children to nap for an extended period in a swing, baby seat, stroller, or car seat.

Instead, take them out and place them on a sturdy bed or level surface. If you have concerns about whether a child can choke when lying on their back, know that healthy infants automatically cough out or swallow fluid that interferes with their sleep.

But be sure to consult a pediatrician immediately if your child has any choking issues.

2. Have A Firm And Bare Bed

what reduces sids

Place the child to sleep on a firm bed or a level surface in a crib or bassinet to avoid smothering or asphyxia. Remember not to put blankets, quilts, cushions, bumpers, sheepskins, toys, or plush animals in the child's crib; one only requires a fitted sheet.

All these additional items can hamper your baby's ability to breathe and cause SIDS. When the child awakens, items can be added to the bed, but one should never use them for sleeping.

3. Co-sleeping In The Same Bed With Parents Needs To Be Avoided

When it comes to co-sleeping, a blanket or pillow could strangle the baby while co-sleeping on the parent's bed. The parent may unintentionally roll over upon them, cutting off their air supply and causing SIDS.

Additionally, infants risk becoming strangled if their head becomes wedged between the mattress and the bed frame. The same risks apply when sleeping on a couch, sofa, or armchair. You should always avoid letting your baby sleep on these surfaces. 

Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that co-sleeping increases the risk of SIDS, although many parents still do it.

In a survey conducted by parents.com, 52% of readers said that they did it all the time or occasionally because co-sleeping is more convenient for overnight feeding and makes the parent peaceful since they have their babies nearby. It is dangerous for the child, though, and should be avoided.

However, sharing a room for the first year helps reduce the incidence of SIDS when done correctly. Then it is highly recommended as the way to go for at least one year if possible. The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends sharing a room with your infant for a minimum of the first six months. 

If parents decide to sleep with their baby, which is highly recommended, it is advisable not to have a baby crib attached to the parent's bed frame since they might still suffocate their infant with an arm or leg. Room sharing is only safe if the baby's crib is some distance apart from your bed.

4. Baby Immunizations And Checkups 

A study shows that babies who receive all the recommended vaccinations from the CDC have a lower risk of getting SIDS than babies who have not received all the recommended vaccinations.

The chances of SIDS can also be reduced by getting regular prenatal care and taking your child for routine checkups. It is also vital to always ask your childcare provider about the latest SIDS prevention policies and procedures. 

5. Pacifiers--Yes!

Although researchers are unsure of the exact reason, using a pacifier can help avoid children from getting SIDS. When using a pacifier, remember that if one is breastfeeding, not to start using the pacifier until the child is routinely breastfed. The baby should be at least 3-4 weeks of age.

The pacifier is not recommended at a younger age for breastfed babies because when it is introduced earlier, it might induce nipple confusion and make the baby like the nipple of the pacifier and not their mothers. Bottle-fed babies can be introduced to pacifiers at any time.

If the infant does not want to use the pacifier, don't force them, and when one puts the baby to sleep, place the pacifier in their mouth, but do not replace it once they are asleep.

Maintain the pacifier's cleanliness and replace it if the nipple becomes broken. Additionally, one should use no honey, alcohol, or other substances to coat the pacifier. Honey can induce botulism in young children, and there is evidence that the germs that cause botulism and SIDS are related.

6. Temperature Control

According to a study by Warren Gunther Hoth, an overly warm nursery significantly increases an infant's risk of SIDS. This might be the case because a warm infant has a hard time waking up in the event of trouble because they fall so soundly asleep.

Therefore, avoid placing the crib too close to a radiator, set the thermostat to a comfortable 68-72% degrees, and ensure to cloth the baby with lightweight clothes--airy, cozy sleepwear, onesies, or a sleepsack (a wearable blanket). Always keep babies face and head uncovered while sleeping. Your baby's ears should be warm--neither cold nor hot. 

Overheating can also increase the baby's risk of SIDS since scorching air may cause insufficient air circulation.

7. Breastfeeding

SIDS prevention guidelines

It is hard to underestimate the benefits of breastfeeding.

Studies have proven that breastfeeding infants decrease their chances of getting SIDS by 60%-73%, depending on how long they are breastfed. Among many other possible factors, breastfed babies are more quickly woken from sleep than formula-fed babies.

Don't feed your child on a sofa, couch, or other places where you feel you could doze off.

8. Daycare Procedures

If one wishes to take their children to daycare, it is always wise to verify their policy because at least in the US, there are no federal safe sleep standards that daycares are required to follow, and each state is free to establish its regulations. 

That's not meant to scare you out of daycare; instead, it's to encourage you to go over the SIDS safety procedures with anyone who is to take care of your baby, whether they are nannies, babysitters, or family members, friends, or any other daycare staff.

 9. Avoid Anti-SIDS Technology

A computerized respiratory monitor does not help unless the baby has a recognized cardiac or respiratory ailment. There is also little known evidence supporting the effectiveness of products promoted to lessen carbon dioxide emissions, such as baby mattresses with built-in fans.

Ensure that the infant has ample space. While sleeping, the child should move freely by turning around and wriggling. According to a study by Dr. Shapiro, a baby that cannot move effectively can get into dangerous situations.

So keep in mind that babies should not be put in small beds or extremely little bassinets.

10. Avoid Smoking

A baby's exposure to smoking in the womb and through secondhand smoke raises the risks of SIDS. While it is better to breastfeed than not if a smoker, do your smoking right after feedings to reduce the amount of nicotine in your baby's breastmilk.

Three times as many babies born to pregnant women who smoke suffer from SIDS than infants from nonsmokers. Taking drugs and alcohol during pregnancy also increases your risk.

There are many other risks and factors for SIDS, including the danger of secondhand smoke near your baby. All secondhand smoke needs to be avoided. It contributes to SIDS. 

11. Tummy Time

tummy time for 3 month old

Tummy time is crucial to a child's physical and cognitive development and guards the child against patches on the head that may be caused when the child lies on a surface for an extended period.

The skull's bone plates may migrate in a way that results in a flat region if the child's head is kept in one place for an extended period. Even though putting babies to sleep on their back is advised to lower the risks of SIDS, tummy time also allows a baby the benefit of a different position.

Therefore, engaging your infant in several monitored tummy seasons each day is advisable. One might also put toys suitable for his or her age within reach.

12. Avoid Overfeeding The Baby

An overfed baby frequently has discomfort because they cannot adequately handle the necessary digestion. An overfed baby is susceptible to SIDS because if they roll onto their stomach while asleep, there is too much pressure on the respiratory system, making less airflow available. 

During feedings, babies give signals that show if they are hungry or not. If hungry, they will continuously grasp the milk bottle or breast and suck, while a full baby may:

  • Turn away from the breast or bottle
  • Push the breast or bottle away
  • Become disinterested
  • Spit out milk or formula
  • Fall asleep
  • Fuss or squirm
  • Arch their backs
  • Decrease or stop their sucking

Risk Factors For SIDS

Even though not all the causes of SIDS are known, experts agree that the arousal area in the brains of infants who die from the syndrome is immature. When these infants are experiencing problems breathing, they cannot wake up on their own. 

Sleeping on one's stomach probably increases the chances of repeatedly rebreathing oxygen-depleted air. An infant's risk of the syndrome may increase due to a confluence of physical and sleep-related environmental variables. That is to say, all these variables vary from one child to another.

Physical Risk Factors

Some infants are born with conditions such as brain damage that increase their risk of dying from SIDS.

Many of these infants lack the necessary development in the area of the brain that regulates respiration and wakefulness from sleep. Another crucial risk factor is low birthweight, where a newborn's brain may not have fully developed if he or she were born prematurely or as a part of multiple births.

In these cases, the child will likely have less control over natural functions such as pulse rate and respiration.

Respiratory illnesses from dust and contaminants from the environment can also cause respiratory illnesses, which can cause SIDS. Genetic mutations can play a role. Even a recent cold contributes to the possibility of SIDS. And babies with siblings or cousins who have died of SIDS have a greater chance of succumbing.

 Environmental Influences On Sleep 

environmental influences on sleeping baby

As noted, environmental factors such as items in their crib and how the child sleeps can contribute to an increased risk of SIDS. Additionally, infant airways might become blocked if they sleep while facing down on any soft surface, sofa, mattress, waterbed, or fluffy blanket. 

When parents share their bed with their newborns, the infant's life is at risk. The best way is to have a baby crib at a distance in the same room, especially in the first 12 months.

Risk Elements

Although any infant may experience sudden infant death syndrome, researchers have found several risk factors that may make a baby more susceptible.

The risk of SIDS death is slightly higher in boys. Infants most vulnerable to SIDS are between 2 to 4 months. Then, the risk drops off after 6 months and becomes extremely rare after one year. 

Newly born babies of color are more likely to experience SIDS than white infants for unknown reasons. Babies also have a higher SIDS rate if born prematurely. Additionally, babies are more likely to suffer from SIDS when their parents are smokers. 

Hope For Reducing SIDS Cases 

The precise cause of SIDS has baffled scientists for decades, but a key may have been discovered by researchers from the SIDS and Sleep Apnoea Research Group at the children's hospital, Art Westmead in Australia in May of 2022.

According to the study findings, researchers noticed that SIDS might be caused partly by failure in the cholinergic system, a vital component of the central nervous system that regulates activities such as sleeping, walking, and attention.

The researchers found that there were lower concentrations of the enzyme butyrlcholinesterase, or BChE, an enzyme that helps control the cholinergic system in babies that die from SIDS. 

In contrast, those who passed away from causes other than SIDS had an enzyme level that was roughly comparable to a control group. Therefore, the researchers found this low level of enzyme may contribute to a specific susceptibility to SIDS.

These preliminary results found a correlation to what causes SIDS but no definitive cause. Not all babies with low concentrations of BChE will die of SIDS.

Conclusion

Dr. Richard D. Goldstein, director of the Robert's Program on Sudden Unexpected Death in Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical school, says, "It is clear there is no single cause for SIDS."

The study is an "interesting and solid contribution...but very preliminary and needs a lot more research before we understand its actual significance." He believes there are likely multiple variations of SIDS, each having its own risk factors but resulting in the same outcome.

For now, the most effective thing a parent can do is to follow the 12 steps listed above. 

About the author 

Dan Sperling

I'm the proud father of two great children. They are grown up now, and although I would have preferred to be a stay-at-home dad, I had to work. Luckily, I could work out of my home so I was around a lot. I ran a video production company, had a couple of great guys working with me and it allowed me to be around the children a lot. I was the "fun guy" for my kids and fathering was something I just took to.
When my daughter became pregnant, I was glad to see my son-in-law was doing everything right--or as good as it gets--we're always winging it, right? It got me thinking that so many dads would like to be more emotionally involved and knowledgeable when it comes to their wives' pregnancy and the first year of their children's lives.

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