There’s nothing that’s more peaceful than seeing your baby sleeping soundly. Yet sleep can be hazardous for an infant as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) may occur.
Also known as cot death or crib death, is it the sudden unexplained death of a child less than a year old. Though there is no definite cause, it has been linked to the baby sleeping face down, on soft surfaces and when a baby’s temperature becomes too high.
Prevention is always better than cure, and to fend against SIDS occurring, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking the following measures to reduce the risk of SIDS.
1. Back to sleep for every sleep.
Place your baby on its back every time they go to sleep. This is particularly important for premature infants, as they are at higher risk of SIDS. Contrary to popular belief, this sleep position does not increase the risk of choking and aspiration in infants.
2. Use a firm sleep surface.
Place them on a firm sleep surface that will maintain its shape and no indent or conform to the shape of baby’s head. Using a soft memory foam mattress increases the risk of indentation that can cause suffocation. Sitting devices such as car seats, strollers and infant carriers are not recommended for routine sleep, as when in such devices, infants may assume positions that can cause suffocation.
3. Have your infant sleep in the same room but not the same bed.
While being near the parents certainly has benefits for the baby, being on the same bed increases the possibility of suffocation, strangulation and entrapment that may occur. Instead, you should let them sleep in their own crib, and return them to their crib if you bring them to your bed for feeding or comforting.
4. Use a pacifier.
Studies have shown that pacifiers reduce the incidence of SIDS. Use it when placing your infant to sleep, but if it drops out, you don’t need to worry about reinserting it.
5. Keep their crib free of soft and loose objects.
Pillows, soft toys and blankets can obstruct an infant’s nose and mouth. If a blanket is required, try getting a wearable blanket as this will reduce the chances of their head being accidentally covered.
6. Don’t overheat your baby.
Go easy on piling on too many layers onto your baby. Instead dress them according to the temperature, with just one additional layer more than what an adult has on. If the infant is sweating or their chest is feeling hot to the touch, they may be overheated.
7. Avoid the use of wedges and infant positioners.
You may be tempted to buy contraptions that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, however to date there is no evidence that these devices do what they say they do. Instead, you should adopt safe sleep practices.
8. Practice tummy time when awake.
Doing ‘tummy time’, where baby is propped up on his stomach strengthens baby muscles and facilitates development. This also reduces the occurrence of flattened head syndrome.