Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is an unexplainable death of an otherwise healthy baby.  The death usually occurs during sleep and between the ages of two and four months of age. SIDS rarely occurs before one month of age or after six months. It is shocking and devastating for families and there is no warning or no definitive cause. There are, however, some factors that put babies at risk for sudden infant death syndrome. As well there are also identified measures caregivers can take to help protect a child from SIDS.

There has been significant research recently into SIDS, and as a result, a decrease in the occurrence. This is largely in part to educational campaigns about safe sleep practices for infants.  The research has also been able to rule out a number of possible causes such as vomiting or choking, suffocation, birth defects and illness. Evidence indicates the involvement of multiple factors, including the mother's health and behavior during pregnancy.

There are several risk factors that are unavoidable such as male gender, black or American Indian race,  siblings who died of SIDS, and born during the colder month season. There are also significant risk factors that are preventable: premature or low birth weight babies, babies born to mothers who smoke or use drugs during the pregnancy, babies exposed to secondhand smoke, overheating babies, and placing babies to sleep on their stomachs.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, but there are steps to take that significantly decrease a baby's risks:

Safe Sleep Practices: Always place babies to sleep on their backs during naps and at bedtime.  Babies positioned on their sides are more likely to accidentally roll onto their stomachs. 

Avoid overheating during sleep: don't cover babies with a blanket and dress the baby lightly. Set the room temperature in a range that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. 

Safe Sleep Environment: The crib should have a firm mattress and a well-fitting sheet. The crib should be placed in a smoke-free environment, within an arm's reach of mom's bed. Toys and other soft bedding should not be placed in the crib with the baby. Breastfeed your baby through the first year of life.

Get good prenatal care: Take care of yourself during pregnancy. Establish care with a primary care provider and have regular prenatal checkups to reduce the risk of low birth weight or premature baby. Don't smoke or expose yourself to secondhand smoke while you are pregnant.

Families should familiarize every person providing cares to their baby about the importance of safe sleep practices. Also there are multiple resources regarding SIDS and the importance of safe sleep practices available through the internet, and from your primary care provider and your local health department. 

Take the steps necessary before and after your baby is born to help reduce your baby's risk of dying from SIDS.

This information is presented by Ashland County Health and Human Services.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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