SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants aged one month to one year. Know what factors can contribute to SIDS so that you can stop worrying.
Like many new mothers, one of my biggest fears after having my son was SIDS. What made my fear so very real was that SIDS was so unpredictable. Although there were things I could do to reduce risk (Safe to Sleep®), there’s no certain way to prevent it.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is described as the unexpected death of an infant one month to one year of age. Each year, SIDS takes the life of more than 2,500 children in the United States.
An additional 3,500 infants die annually from other unexpected causes, such as suffocation, according to Children’s National Health System. These babies are considered sudden and unexpected infant death (SUID) cases.
To help ease my worries, I often tried to stay awake to watch my little one sleep. Every “too long” gap between breaths had me anxious and I soon found myself overtired and distressed. Time and time again I thought to myself, “When can I stop worrying about SIDS?”
At my son’s next checkup, I asked my pediatrician for some insight on the subject. “Babies between one and four months are most at risk for SIDS,” she said. My son had just passed his six month milestone.
I also did some research of my own. More than 90 percent of cases occur in babies under six months of age, and SIDS doesn’t usually occur after a child’s first birthday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
What the Experts Say
As a parent, you probably won’t stop worrying about SIDS until your baby is well into his toddling years. Although there have been some cases of SIDS in children over one year old, these occurrences are rare: only 10 percent of occurrences happen between six and 12 months.
Here’s what the experts have to say about SIDS, when it occurs, and what factors can increase a baby’s risk.
“The great majority of sudden infant deaths occur before a baby is 4 months old. Still, you should continue to practice sensible SIDS prevention. And until your baby is 1 year or older, make sure that you’re not covering him with thick, heavy blankets, which can trap exhaled carbon dioxide when they cover his face.”
Anne Krueger, Parenting Guide to Your Baby’s First Year
“SIDS is rare, but back sleeping has decreased the risk by half even though doctors don’t really understand why. Limit the risk of breathing obstructions in the crib and elsewhere by removing fluffy pillows, stuffed animals, and so on. Also, avoid smoking around the baby; studies have found that secondhand smoke significantly increases the SIDS risk.”
Dr. Michel Cohen, M.D., The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent
“SIDS occurs during an infant’s sleep, either nightmare or naptime and occurs most frequently between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m., with the peak time of death around 5 a.m. SIDS is more common during the winter months. For unknown reasons, SIDS is higher in males than females by a ratio of 1.5 to 1.0.”
Debra Spurrier Morrison, The “Official” Baby Owner’s Manual
“The baby’s crib should be in the parent’s room until at least the age of 6 months. Studies clearly show that infants are safest when their beds are close to their mothers.”
Wendy Votroubek, Aaron Tabacco, Pediatric Home Care for Nurses: A Family-Centered Approach
“If a baby under a year old dies suddenly and no other cause of death can be found, it’s considered a SIDS death. Sudden infant death syndrome is not suffocation or an underlying health problem that anyone can find. It isn’t an accident or birth defect, and nothing shows up after a thorough autopsy and toxicology report.”
Diane Wiessinger, La Leche League International, Diana West, Teresa Pitman, Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family
Reduce the Risk of SIDS
While there is no way to eliminate the risk of SIDS, you can reduce it by following some valuable and effective recommendations. One of the best ways to significantly reduce your infant’s risk of SIDS is to put your baby on his back to sleep.
Since the launch of the “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1994, the SIDS rate has dropped more than 60 percent. Babies placed on their sides or stomachs are at a higher risk for SIDS. These sleep positions can cause a baby to become face down on the mattress or bedding, causing him to smother.
It’s also important to create a safe sleep environment for your little one. Place your infant on a firm sleep surface that meets current safety standards. You can safely use a crib, bassinet, play yard, or portable crib, as long as the product has not been recalled and does not contain any broken or missing parts.
Cover the mattress with a tight-fitting sheet and do not place any pillows or blankets between the fitted sheet and mattress. Keep objects that could cause suffocation or strangulation out of the crib, such as pillows, comforters, bumper pads, stuffed toys, sheepskins, and quilts.
Other tips to reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Allow your baby to sleep in your bedroom, but not in your bed. Sharing a room rather than a bed can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent.
- Breastfeed as long as possible.
- Schedule and attend all well-child visits and have your infant get all of his immunizations.
- Keep your baby away from smokers and areas where people smoke.
- Dress your baby in weather-appropriate attire and do not allow him to get too hot.
- Offer a pacifier during naps and at bedtime.
As the cause of SIDS is still unknown, it can be scary for new parents who simply want to protect their babies from harm. Knowing that you’re doing everything you can to minimize your baby’s risk can give you peace of mind and allow you to cherish every moment.