Place an Infant on Their Back to Sleep and Avoid Co-Sleeping to Reduce the Risk of SIDS
When new parents bring home their newborn baby, they do everything imaginable to prepare for the raising of their child. Some read books, some take advice from other experienced parents, and some rely on their intuition. More realistically, it's probably a combination of all three sources. But even with all that knowledge and preparation, there are still a number of infant deaths that occur unexpectedly with healthy babies in the first year of their lives.
Sudden infant death syndrome otherwise known as SIDS is defined as the sudden, unexpected death of an infant less than one year old where an autopsy cannot explain the cause of death. This is a very serious risk but can be greatly minimized with proper care.
Parents may not realize the importance of putting their infant on his or her back to sleep or how it can play such a huge role in preventing these deaths. What other factors can help a parent avoid losing their baby to SIDS?
Create a Safe Sleeping Environment for the Infant
There are a number of guidelines to live by in order to reduce the risk of SIDS. First of all, an infant should have its own sleep space specifically designed for newborn babies alone. A crib or bassinet with a firm mattress and thin fitted sheet is all the baby needs for a good night's rest. The infant should be dressed in warm enough clothes, such as a jumpsuit or sleeper, so he or she does not need extra warmth from blankets. If the baby feels too warm, remove a layer of clothing or lower the temperature of the room. Extra pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, bumper pads, wedges, and any other soft, fluffy or loose objects should not be kept in the crib while the baby sleeps, not over night and not for naps.
These loose objects may trap the air that the infant exhales or may cover the baby's head or mouth causing him or her to rebreathe their own air, which lacks the oxygen that he or she needs. The infant could essentially suffocate to death or at the very least, suffer challenges during this critical development period of their life because their brain is not receiving proper amounts of oxygen.
Place an Infant on His or Her Back to Sleep to Reduce the Risk of SIDS
Once the infant's crib has been cleared of all excess objects, they should be placed on their back to sleep. Again, no blankets should be used as they can interfere with the baby's breathing. The baby should be wearing enough clothes to stay comfortable all night without a blanket. When the baby starts to develop more muscle, he or she will begin to roll from side to side and choose a naturally comfortable sleeping position. However, the infant should initially be placed on their back for ALL sleep times, including naps. Side sleeping is NOT a safe alternative to back sleeping and is NOT advised.
An infant should never be placed on a sofa, cushion, comforter, pillow, adult bed, waterbed or armchair to sleep. Although it may look comfortable to an adult or may seem convenient at the moment, this is very dangerous for an infant and can increase the risk of SIDS.
The Dangers of Co-Sleeping With Parents, Siblings, or Pets
Another mistake a parent might make is allowing their newborn to sleep with them in their adult bed, on the sofa, etc.. This habit is extremely dangerous to an infant's life! While the adult is sleeping (and unconscious of his or her surroundings), the infant may accidentally become wedged between the bed and the wall or headboard or between cushions or pillows. The parent may also roll on top of the baby or lay too close to their child during their sleep, preventing sufficient oxygen for the infant. An adult bed or any sleeping arrangement with another body, be it a sibling, parent or pet, is UNSAFE for babies to sleep!
An infant should have their own crib in their own room close to the parent's room. Again, it should be free of loose, fluffy items, fitted with a thin sheet, and away from any windows, plugs, cords, or other hazardous objects. The infant should also be dressed in enough clothes to stay at a comfortable temperature and should ALWAYS be placed on their back to sleep. These habits need to be practiced every time the baby is put down to sleep, for any amount of time, during the first year of their life.
Parenting classes and counseling are available in many areas of the country including St. Louis, for example. As a new parent, one can feel overwhelmed with all the information they gather while awaiting the baby's arrival and may need a support group or counselor to talk to. Raising a child is not an easy task but parents can learn from each other's mistakes to make the adventure go a little smoother.
For more information on SIDS in the St. Louis area visit www.sidsresources.org.