How to Reduce The Risk Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
Created by Neetu Ralhan Updated on Jun 08, 2020
Partial knowledge about anything can be unsettling, if not entirely dangerous. Back in the winter months of 2001, I was a first-time mother, raising a tiny baby boy. I had heard bits and pieces about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a parent's worst nightmare, on an American TV show. However, with limited (read 'no') access to the Internet, my half-baked knowledge on the subject left me anxious. I obsessively checked on my baby if he slept for too long, or did not move in his sleep. The cozy quilts and blankets that were snug around him only fuelled my anxiety.
Information is more readily available to today's parents. However, SIDS still remains a taboo subject, something that every new parent hears about, but none wants to discuss. With several questions about this condition lurking in our minds, here is a compilation of some important, good-to-know facts about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (Before you proceed, please note that the purpose of this article is not to create panic, but to generate awareness that will help us take better care of our little angels).
What Is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
Also known as Cot Death or Crib Death, SIDS is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant while sleeping, where the cause of death remains unexplained. Most babies that succumb to SIDS seem to have been healthy before death. Infants between 2 and 4 months are believed to be at the highest risk of SIDS.
Is SIDS Occurs in Western Countries or Should I Be Worried as Well?
The incidence of SIDS in India is comparatively lower than in the Western countries where it has been the subject of extensive research and government-run awareness campaigns. However, there have been reported cases of SIDS in India. It is wise to be aware and learn about any precautionary measures you may be missing.
What Are The Risk Factors For SIDS?
Although the absolute causes that lead to SIDS remain unexplained, researchers across the world have identified the following as the most probable risk factors.
- A baby sleeping on her stomach is more at risk than one who sleeps on her back
- Male children are at a 50% higher risk of SIDS
- 2-4 months is considered the peak age of SIDS
- Babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are at an increased risk of SIDS due to exposure to nicotine
- Babies exposed to tobacco smoke during sleep are at risk
- SIDS may occur in infants born with brain abnormalities – specifically in the region that controls breathing and arousal from sleep
- Babies born to under-age mothers and babies who are not breast-fed are at risk
- Respiratory infections cause breathing difficulties and may lead to SIDS
- Sleeping on soft surfaces such as comforters or fluffy cushions can result in the blocking of the airway, and increases the risk of SIDS
Since I Have A Baby Girl, Should I Be Less Worried About SIDS?
Although the incidence of SIDS is higher among male babies, female infants should be given as much care to avoid any mishap.
My Baby Just Celebrated Her First Birthday. Should I Still Be Worried?
Experts say that the risk of SIDS is lowest at the time of birth and after the infant's first year. After your child turns one, while the risk is low, do continue to be cautious, taking care of your infant's safety while sleeping. This will help avoid situations that pose a life risk, such as suffocation.
What Precautions Can I Take To Prevent SIDS?
At present there is no sure way to prevent SIDS; however, taking the following precautions can significantly reduce the risk of sleep-related causes of infant death.
- During pregnancy, it is advisable to not smoke or consume alcohol during pregnancy and to not be around people when they smoke
- Place your baby to sleep on her back, even though she may sleep more soundly on her tummy
- Use a firm surface with a well-fitted sheet as the baby's bed
- Make sure that the baby's sleeping area is clutter-free. Clothe her in appropriate clothes to keep her warm instead of using pillows, fluffy quilts, blankets, and stuffed toys
- Make sure that your baby is not too hot or too cold during sleep
- Cover your baby only up to the chest and arms, and avoid placing blankets around her head. If you must, using a simple cap to cover the head does the job
- Avoid any situations where your baby may be exposed to nicotine or toxic fumes
- It may not be appropriate to share a bed with your baby, especially if you have been drinking. In case of necessity, you may want to make sure the baby is not cramped
To curb the high incidence of SIDS in America, the American Academy of Pediatrics began the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, advising parents to place babies on their backs while putting them to sleep. Studies have reported a 50% decline in SIDS cases since then.
Does Co-Sleeping Increase The Risk Of SIDS In Infants?
If you follow safe co-sleeping practices, it can actually reduce the risk of SIDS. While co-sleeping, keep these factors in mind-
- Never leave your infant asleep on your bed when you're not in the same room
- Make sure your bed is firm and has tightly tucked in sheets. There must be no gaps or grooves where a baby's arm or leg or even his head can get stuck
- Use light covers instead of heavy duvets, and make sure you don't keep your pillow close to your baby. When safe co-sleeping practices are compromised, the risk of SIDS increases exponentially
What to Do If My Baby Does Not Like to Sleep On Her Back?
Babies are more likely to experience sleep apnea (pauses in breathing) when sleeping on their stomachs. They are also at risk of re-inhaling the carbon dioxide they just exhaled. Most importantly, sleeping on the tummy multiplies the risk of sleep-related death. If your baby seems to resist sleeping on his back, it is most likely because of a feeling of insecurity. Try swaddling him as this usually makes a baby feel secure. Make sure that the room is cool enough for the baby to be swaddled. If you put your baby to sleep on his back and he has rolled over onto his tummy, don't worry about it. The ability to roll over reduces the risk of SIDS significantly, as experts believe that the baby has also developed the ability to sense insecurity during sleep.
Will Sleeping On The Back Hamper My Baby's Growth?
Not if you give the baby ample time to be on her stomach while she is awake. This will help strengthen her neck, shoulder and arm muscles. Tummy time is essential for the proper development of motor skills.
In conclusion, while you may take the necessary precautions for your child's safety, the above information should not make you too anxious. If you continue to have questions, please share in the comments section and we will have them reviewed by our experts. Happy parenting!
Disclaimer: The information shared above is backed by documented research and has been reviewed by experts at Parentune.
Did you find the information on SIDS useful? Still, have questions? Do write to us in the comments section, as we would love to hear from you!
| Feb 07, 2013
Great topic Neetu. I too was obsessed with knowing more about SIDS as I remember being repeatedly told by the doctors at the hospital on how dangerous this is and how easily something like this can occur! The occurrence of SIDS is rare in India, but awareness is a must. A very accurate and an informative blog Neetu :)
| Feb 11, 2013
Dear Preetu, the risk of SIDS is when a baby is sleeping. And even then so many factors come into play and the risk is minimized when we take basic precautions. Please treat this as other situations where you are careful for your baby's safety, such as bathing or feeding the baby. tc
| Feb 11, 2013
dear Priya, it is unfortunate that your family lost a precious little soul. We are not equipped to comment what could have caused the baby's death. But I do feel that here in India we do not like to acknowledge or talk openly about matters related to death, more so if the subject is about infant death. We fear that if we talk about it, it might happen. I myself never ever shared this fear of mine with my family thinking they might consider it inauspicious. Awareness is extremely important.. take care and thank you for sharing.
| Jul 17, 2013
I think... this is more in western coutries because since beigning they keep the child in cot in another room all alone(they place a speaker so tht whn child cry mother comes n make child sleep again)... may be chid feel insecure/nightmare or s'thing... which cause of early death.... I hv also read s'whr abt it earlier.. and it is nt much heard in India as we keep out children in the same bed and give them love, care and security by touching them again n again.
| Sep 06, 2017
Thanks for sharing these facts about SIDS and necessary precautions to be taken . though the incidence of crib deaths is higher in developed nations , this should not make us be less cautious. in India trend of co sleeping with babies is prevalent but one should not forget co-sleep SIDS deaths incidences are also on a rise. we need to take all precautionary steps if we choose to co- sleep with our babies.