October Marks Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month

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October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), SIDS claimed the lives of 58 infants in 2007 and is a leading cause of death for Mississippi infants one month to one year old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that all infants should be placed on their back for every sleep period. Side sleeping is not a safe alternative and is not advised.

Placing infants in the proper sleeping position is one way that caregivers can reduce SIDS risk.

"Every caregiver should use the back sleep position with the infant during every sleep period," said Dr. Lynn Walker, pediatric medical consultant for the MSDH. "Bed sharing is not recommended during sleep. Infants may be brought into bed for nursing or comforting, but should be returned to their own crib or bassinet when the parent is ready to return to sleep."

Other steps to reduce SIDS risk include:

* Use a firm sleep surface: A firm crib mattress, covered by a sheet, is the recommended sleeping surface.

* Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib: Pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys and other soft objects should be kept out of an infant's sleeping environment.

* A separate but nearby sleeping environment is recommended, such as a separate crib in the parents' bedroom. Bed sharing during sleep is not recommended.

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* Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. The pacifier should be used when placing the infant down for sleep, and not be reinserted once the infant falls asleep.

* Preventing an infant's exposure to second-hand smoke is advisable for numerous reasons in addition to lowering the risk of SIDS.

* Avoid overheating: The infant should be lightly clothed for sleep, and the bedroom temperature should be kept comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.

* Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS. Although various devices have been developed to maintain sleep position or reduce the risk of rebreathing, none have been tested sufficiently to show efficacy or safety.

* Do not use home monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that use of such home monitors decreases the risk of SIDS.

* Avoid development of positional plagiocephaly (flat back of head) by giving baby plenty of "tummy time" when he or she is awake.

* The infant should not spend excessive time in car-seat carriers and "bouncers." Place the infant to sleep with the head to one side for a week, and then change to the other.

* Ensure that others caring for the infant (child care provider, relative, friend, babysitter) are aware of these recommendations.

The MSDH offers support services and referrals to families who have suffered the loss of a baby to SIDS.

"We supply current information about SIDS to the medical community, child care professionals and the general public, particularly expectant parents," said Dr. Walker. "But parents should ask their primary care health provider questions regarding specific SIDS risk reduction recommendations to determine what is appropriate for their infant."

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