While not as prevalent in Asia, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS as it’s more commonly known still happens right here on our little red dot. Most cases of SIDS in Singapore occur due to congenital heart problems or premature complications but low incidence doesn’t mean no incidence.
So why are Asian babies at a lower risk? While no studies have conclusively explained why, some theories include how we care for our babies, culturally speaking.
In Asian homes, babies almost always sleep in the same room as their parents. We may carry, rock or gently bounce our babies to sleep. Comparatively western cultures place babies in their cribs while still awake to fall asleep on their own.
Here’s a quick comparison by the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention CDC; rates are lowest among Asian and Pacific Islander infants at 32.7 for every 100,000 live births while American Indian and Alaskan Natives rates are the highest at 196.9 for every 100,000 live births. How’s that for a comparison?
While there is no definite cause to SIDS, it has been linked to babies sleeping face down on soft surfaces and when a baby’s temperature becomes too high.
Prevention and awareness is key in keeping your baby safe. 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 not 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 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 can 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 smothering the baby.
#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. In our tropical weather, light, breathable materials is best.
#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. Babies should always be supervised during tummy time.