What is SIDS?
SIDS is sudden infant death syndrome. It is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant below the age of one year. It is a very important thing to learn for all new parents as this death sleep which occurs suddenly between midnight and early morning without any signs of struggle or noise. In all such cases, the cause of the death remains unknown even after a detailed autopsy.
What Causes SIDS?
The exact cause is not known but there are many probable factors that are responsible for SIDS. These are sleeping on the stomach or baby sleeping on side, excessive bedding or toys in the crib, overheating, sudden exposure to smoke, tobacco smoke. Accidental suffocation can also be a resultant of bed sharing or co sleeping. Keeping the sleeping baby on the same cot as the parents is a very common practice in Asian countries but it is considered unsafe as deep sleepers or toddlers can be responsible for suffocating the baby. Another known risk factor is premature babies where the respiratory tract is still immature. SIDS is responsible for 80% of sudden infant deaths.
The demography of the syndrome shows that it is more common in developed countries and is seen more often in the babies below 6 months of age. It is more common in boys than in girls.
Risk Factors of SIDS
There are some risk factors that have been identified as potential causes of these sudden deaths in infants. They are:
- Sleeping: Putting babies to sleep on their stomach is one of the important causes of SIDS. Presence of excessive bedding in the cot or soft toys can also prove risky as they can suffocate the baby. Before six months of age, babies are delicate and they cannot remove their arms or head from an odd position. They can turn but if they are getting suffocated in the face, they cannot help themselves. So it is said that babies under the age of one year should be made to sleep on their back with no toys or soft material in the cot.
- Smoke: Infants who were exposed to smoke in uterus that is if the mother smoked during her pregnancy, then the chances of SIDS go up. Smoking is also associated with poor neural development in the baby.
- Genetics: Male babies are 50% more prone to SIDS than females.
- Bottle feeding: Parents who have a habit of giving the bottle in the bed to the baby are actually putting their kids at a big risk. If the baby falls asleep while drinking, the nipple may remain in the mouth and obstruct the breathing of the baby. This is an incorrect method of feeding and should be avoided.
- Other Factors: There are other factors like drinking habit in parents which is found associated with SIDS to a great extent.
Prevention of SIDS
- The most important rule in SIDS prevention is putting the baby to sleep on his back in baby crib. Some parents may be worried about their babies choking but putting them to bed on their tummy is a bigger risk.
- The cot used for the baby should be firm with no extra pillows, bedding, newborn blankets or soft toys.
- Smoke affects the health of the baby in a very big way. If you are smoking, ensure that you quit before you get pregnant. Second hand smoke is a very big risk factor for infant death syndrome.
- Breastfeed your baby for as long as you can because the protective antibodies from the mother prevent infections in the baby which puts him at a risk for developing SIDS. If you are bottle feeding, never give the bottle to the child in bed. Feed him in your lap, burp him and then lay him down for sleep.
- If you wish to keep your baby in the same room as yours, then use a co sleeper that gets attached to your bed. That way the baby is not at a risk of suffocation under the heavy bed blankets. When the baby is asleep put him in the bassinet (infant bed) next to you.
- It is said that using a pacifier also reduces the risk of SIDS. When using one always remember that you should never put the pacifier in the mouth of a sleeping baby. Sterilize it properly and do not coat it with honey or any other substance.
- Avoid hyperthermia and over heating of the baby. When putting him down, always wear loose and comfortable clothing. The best infant wear can be onesies which keeps the baby covered. Maintain the room temperature and avoid it from getting very hot or cold.
- Never give honey to a baby under the age of one. It is associated with botulism and infections that can lead to SIDS.
- There are products like cardiac monitors and respirators that claim to reduce the rate of SIDS. These products are mostly unnecessary and following the above tips will be sufficient to prevent SIDS in general.