Ask any new parent what they worry about and SIDS is likely very high on their list. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the risk, and give yourself more peace of mind when your little one is sleeping. There are other risks for young babies who are not sleeping safely too, so it’s always a good idea to ensure you put your baby to bed safely every time – whether it’s for a nap or overnight sleeping.
When is SIDS Most Common?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome effects babies aged under 6 months in 90% of cases. It is those in the 1 – 4 months age group who are the most at risk. In fact, SIDS is the leading cause of death amongst infants aged over one month and under one year. It has been found that boys are slightly more likely to die from SIDS than girls, and African-American and Native American infants are almost more likely to be effected. Premature or low birth-weight babies are also at higher risk.
The definition of SIDS means it does not technically effect children over the age of one year old. However, the related condition known as Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) can effect children of any age, although thankfully it is much rarer than SIDS.
How to Prevent SIDS
There are many ways to easily reduce the risk of SIDS, although it is impossible to totally eliminate the chances of it occurring.
- Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Second-hand smoke greatly increases the risk of SIDS, as does smoking when pregnant. If anyone in the house does smoke, ensure they take it right outside – opening the windows is not enough.
- Using a pacifier can help with SIDS prevention. This is thought to be because the handle prevents babies from pressing their face into the mattress or bedding, therefore reducing the chance of suffocation. Pacifiers have been found to minimize the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome even in babies who were otherwise classed as high-risk.
- Ensure the mattress on the crib is the right size and doesn’t have any gaps between the mattress and the frame of the crib. Gaps which are more than two-fingers wide can be dangerous as babies could get trapped in the space.
- Bed sharing is thought to be a risk factor for SIDS. Whilst many exhausted parents think co-sleeping is a great idea, it can be really dangerous. If you want to sleep with your baby, consider buying a ‘next to me’ crib instead. These attach to the parent’s bed, but allow the baby to have their own, safe sleeping surface.
- Follow the crib safety advice below to ensure your baby is always put to sleep in a safe position, and the crib is free from dangers which could cause sudden death.
How to Put a Baby to Sleep
Ensuring a baby is put to sleep in a safe position and in a crib free from dangers is the best way to help lower the chances of sudden infant death. Here are the main recommendations for safe sleeping for newborns.
- The safest way for an infant to sleep is on their back. This is the only safe sleeping position for baby – sleeping on the front and side are both dangerous and should be avoided. On their front, a baby can easily suffocate against the mattress. On the side, they can potentially roll over to their front, and may not be able to roll back again. Once your baby is no longer in a bassinet, they might start rolling on to their front a bit more. There is little you can do to prevent this, but by this stage they are more likely to roll back over by themselves and the chances of SIDS are lower, so try not to worry.
- Try swaddling a newborn, or use a suitable baby sleeping sack when they are a little older. Loose blankets are not recommended, as they can easily cover a baby’s face and restrict breathing. Also ensure sheets fit the mattress tightly and can’t become loose.
- There should be nothing in the crib with your baby until they are at least one year old. This includes pillows (even those designed for infants), crib bumpers, stuffed animals and sleep positioners. None of these items are necessary for infants, and can pose suffocation hazards. No matter how ‘cute’ they make the nursery look, it’s better to keep things safe and simple.
- Ensure the crib is placed well away from anything which could be dangerous. The most common hazard is the cord on window blinds. The crib should also be positioned away from heaters to prevent your infant from overheating when sleeping.
- Related to the point above, overheating is a high risk factor for sudden death. The temperature of the nursery should be cool – dress baby in light layers of clothing which can easily be removed if they start getting too warm.