National SIDS Awareness Month

I like to pretend to be the ultra-relaxed laid-back sort of mom. The truth is that I’ve caught myself popping my head over my healthy infant’s crib a time or two “just to make sure” she was still breathing. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) tops every parent’s anxiety list. We don’t know what causes it- although some studies have linked it to inherited heart problems. The term Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) includes both SIDS and sudden infant death for which we have an explanation (i.e. suffocation). 

Fortunately, there has been a decrease in the rate of SUID by 50 percent since the early 1990’s when safe sleep guidelines changed. We all have that relative who will tell us, “My babies slept on their stomachs/with crib bumpers/in our bed and they were just fine.” When dealing with an issue as scary as SUID, stick to the statistics- not the anecdotes.   

Here are some recommendations to create a safe sleep environment for your infant:

  1. “Back to Sleep." Always place your infant on his/her back to sleep. When your infant is old enough to roll from back to front (around four-six months) you don’t need to worry about turning him/her back over.
  2. Don’t Smoke. Smoking is the second-highest risk factor for SUID (behind sleep position).
  3. Keep it Cool. Avoid over-heating the room where your baby sleeps- keep it around 68 degrees or colder.
  4. Room sharing without bed sharing. Sleeping with your snuggly little bundle of joy in bed with you is tempting and convenient (especially if you are breastfeeding), but not worth it. Several studies have shown the risk of SUID is tripled when infants sleep in bed with their parents. The risk increase is even scarier when parents sleep in a recliner while holding their infants. There is some evidence that sleeping in the same room as the infant, however, is protective against SUID.
  5. Crib Safety. Place the baby on a firm mattress without pillows, comforters, or toys; you may use one thin blanket (swaddling the baby, not loose) or a sleep sack. Most infant sleep-related deaths in the Consumer Product Safety Commission database are caused by suffocation involving pillows, quilts, and extra bedding. 

Baby merchandise stores are a wonderland of products that are as dangerous as they are adorable. Here are a few things to skip when you make your registry:

  • Bumper pads: Bumpers were designed to prevent infants’ heads from getting trapped in between the crib slats. Now cribs are made to have slats a maximum of two 3/8 inches apart, which makes bumpers unnecessary and dangerous (there have been reports of infant death by suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment caused by bumpers). You and I both know those chevron bumpers would complete the nursery décor, but do yourself (and your baby) a favor and leave them in the store. 
  • Any product marketed for “sleep” that is not a firm mattress: for example “sleep positioners” like wedges, pillows, etc. and “co-sleepers” which attach to the side of the parents’ bed. Baby seat “sleepers” (namely the hammock-like ones that would be more appropriate in a beach cabana than in your baby’s room…also car seats and other baby seats) are NOT safe for sleep.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to talk with your Primary Care Physician. Find a Primary Care Physician at Riley at IU Health by searching our directory or by calling 844.848.4325

Danielle N. Wiese, MD

Author of this Article

Danielle N. Wiese, MD is a pediatrician who follows the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She practices at Riley Physicians Pediatrics - IU Health North. Dr. Wiese earned her medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine and completed a residency at Nationwide Children's Hospital with the Ohio State University. She is an Indianapolis resident along with her husband and daughter Noelle.

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