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SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME AND BETTER BABY SLEEPING GUIDANCE

Sudden infant death syndrome is known as (SIDS) and is described as the sudden and unforeseen death of an infant under the age of one year old.

As you can imagine, this condition is traumatic for all parties concerned and may result in post incident police enquiries and so forth that can make the event even more incomprehensible.

Almost 50% of unexpected infant deaths are caused by SIDS as indicated by statistic gathered from the USA, UK and Australia , though strong public campaigns have significantly reduced the syndrome because of the emphasis put onto educating parents so they are aware of the major risk factors thought to cause unexpected infant deaths. Around 2671 infants died in two thousand and ten of SIDS in the USA. We need be aware of these risk factors.

This article aims to update parents, au pairs and child minders with he most up to date information that encompasses unexpected infant death and best practice regarding preventative steps to minimise SIDS.

It is important to note that statistics tell us that the most susceptible infants at risk for SIDS are between two and four months of age and that it seems that the causes are usually associated with a number of factors working together and culminating into an unexpected death.

The Do’s and Don’ts:

Do’s:

  • Place babies on their backs (supine position). Healthy babies are less likely to choke and aspirate in this position because of their anatomy.

  • Place babies in their own sleeping cots.

  • Breast-feeding decreases the risk of SIDS and as you know has a whole lot of other important health benefits. Some studies have showed that the risk of SIDS can be reduced by 40-70%.

  • Be more vigilant with preterm babies. Preterm babies have been associated with an increase in SIDS, up to four times the risk compared to normal term babies.

  • Use a firm and fitted mattress that is flat and free of any loose bedding.

  • Keep babies’ face and airway clear of any possible obstructions.

  • Use the three side tuck technique. Using a thin blanket and ensure the blanked is tucked on three sides so to cover babies’ legs and trunk but with the top of the blanket under the level of the armpits.

  • New infant sleeping bags may help prevent head covering and therefore are good sleeping alternatives.

  • There is some evidence that room sharing (babies in parents room) between the initial 6-12 months may offer some degree of protection because closer monitoring of babies bedding and their sleeping position is improved and suffocation may be less likely.

  • Use of dummies. This is very debatable; it seems the USA promoted the use of them after breast-feeding is in progress, around the third or fourth week. There is significant evidence that shows that infants who have died because of SIDS did no use pacifiers.

Don't:

  • Place infants on their stomach to sleep.

  • Expose infants to maternal smoking, alcohol consumption and illicit drug usage. Smoking during pregnancy may increase SIDS by 5X. Passive smoking after birth has been associated with an increase in SIDS.

  • Share your bed with the infants especially those younger then three months. In more than 50% of all infant deaths was linked to infants and adults sharing the same bed surface. This is very significant and sleeping in these types of close proximity is deemed dangerous. The other worrying factor is that this practice is very prevalent across the world.

  • Expose infants to environments that cause overheating.

  • Use heavy and soft bedding. They should be avoided in cots as they could land up on babies faces and cause obstruction and suffocation. Avoid heavy duvets, blankets, quilts etc. A SIDS study found that twenty four percent of deaths involved babies bedding covering their heads!

  • Place babies onto soft bedding including pillows and sheep rugs. This includes omitting stuffed toys and other soft objects. This bedding can lead to head covering and suffocation.

  • Use ties and loose bumper pads. Ensure that these loose clothing items are secured properly because they can lead to strangulation if left loose.

  • Sharing a couch with babies is deemed extremely dangerous and has been associated with a direct contributor to infant deaths.

SIDS may be attributed to babies’ immature homeostatic body control that may leave them susceptible to the above stressors. It is up the parents and minders to be vigilant regarding the risk factors and to take the appropriate time and actions to prevent SIDS from occurring to the best of their abilities.

Some people have used apnoea monitors for freedom of mind though they have disadvantages and advantages, but with little research information and may be appropriate if there are significant risk factors in place. Please get advice from your local medical doctor.

See more:

American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Death Infant Death Syndrome 2011

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