SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the most common cause of death between 1 and 12 months of age. Every parent, at one time or another, fears this un-explained, tragic event. There are many theories as to the causes of SIDS, but we do not know enough to prevent all cases. However, there are some things that parents can do to minimize their baby's risk of dying of SIDS. In November 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics published new guidelines on the prevention of SIDS. These guidelines are listed below. Please feel free to ask us about these recommendations at your baby's next well-child appointment. All of these recommendations apply to naps as well as night-time sleep. See also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page on SIDS.
- Exposure to cigarette smoke, even just during pregnancy, is probably the biggest risk factor for SIDS. Smoking outside is actually not very helpful in reducing a baby's exposure to smoke. If it can be smelled on a person's clothes, then that person will be exposing the baby to the toxins in cigarette smoke.
- The best sleeping position for babies is on their back. Sleeping on the stomach and even on the side is not as safe as on the back. More information is available from the National Institutes of Health "Safe to Sleep" campaign.
- Babies should sleep on a firm mattress in a crib or bassinet that complies with CPSC guidelines. Do not place soft materials (such as pillows, sheepskins, or comforters) under your baby.
- Use of a pacifier at the time a baby is put to sleep can decrease the risk of SIDS, but the baby should not sleep for long periods with a pacifier in his or her mouth. Waiting until a breastfed baby is 1 month of age before introducing the pacifier will ensure that it does not interfere with the baby learning to breastfeed.
- Babies should not sleep in bed with their parents. Several large studies have shown an increase in SIDS in babies who slept in their parents' bed, especially during the first 3 months of life. Sleeping in the same room with parents, but not in the same bed, can decrease the risk of SIDS.
- Babies should not sleep on top of their parents (like on a sofa or chair) while the parent is sleeping. Many babies get smothered or dropped when they sleep in this fashion.
- Pillows, blankets, sheets, stuffed animals, toys, and even positioning wedges, should not be placed in the crib with a baby. Any of these objects can increase the risk that the baby will become entrapped and smothered.
- Overheating can be a risk factor for SIDS. Babies should be lightly clothed without blankets at a room temperature that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
- Positioning wedges and other commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS are unproven. They have not been adequately tested to ensure that they are even safe, so they are not recommended at this time.