Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) causes traumatic and devastating experiences for thousands of families every year. The leading cause of death among children under the age of one, SIDS affects approximately 3,000-4,000 infants every year in the United States. Approximately 90 infants in New York state are affected each year, and 50 of those children live in New York City. SIDS most often occurs in infants between the ages of 2 and 4 months old. Infants who die from SIDS die appear otherwise healthy and show no signs of illness or suffering.
Though there is no way to fully eliminate the risk of SIDS, research has made great strides in identifying ways parents can help to prevent it.
Genetic factors play a role in the risks for SIDS, as low birth weight, brain abnormalities and respiratory infection. Research, however, suggests parents can take the following measures to help reduce the risk for their child:
Follow all pre-natal healthcare recommendations. Following all your doctor’s recommendations and common best practices during pregnancy will help make your infant stay healthier after birth and more likely to thrive without complications.
Avoid tobacco. Smoke inhibits your child’s ability to breathe. Do not smoke during pregnancy or around your baby after birth. Make sure family members and guests refrain from smoking near your infant, as well.
Keep your crib bare. Infants should be kept warm, though not hot, in their clothes, and should not be surrounded by blankets, pillows or other comfort devices. Make sure the baby’s mattress is firm, not soft.
Make sure your baby sleeps on their back. Side and stomach sleeping increases the risk of SIDS, as infants are more vulnerable to breathing complications and blocked airways. Ensure all family members and babysitters follow this rule consistently. This method – dubbed “Back to Sleep,” according to Dr. Lawrence Baskind of New York-Presbyterian Hospital – is recommended for at least the first 12 months of the child’s life.
Follow immunization recommendations. Infants who are immunized according to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics have historically been less susceptible to SIDS.
It is important to note that while SIDS diagnoses in New York City have declined 84 percent over the last 10 years, the decline may be attributed to changes in classifications for cause of death. Parents should continue to follow all doctor-recommended health guidelines to reduce the risk of infant mortality.
By following the recommendations listed above, you can help reduce your family’s risk for a SIDS occurrence. Looking for more information? Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ latest guidelines for more guidance.