Although the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has steadily decreased over the past 20 years, it is still linked to about 2,500 infant deaths a year. Although some of these deaths could not have been prevented even with the best precautions in place, others could have been prevented with certain safety measures.
Much like a seatbelt in a car accident, taking precautions can greatly lessen the risk of SIDS. So, if you’ve recently taken home a newborn or have friends or family members that have an infant, here are nine safety tips to keep your baby as safe as possible.
SIDS Prevention Tips
#1: Place your baby only on their back to sleep – never on their stomach or their side. Babies that sleep on their stomachs cannot lift their heads away from the mattress and may be smothered in their sleep. Likewise, babies placed on their sides may roll onto their stomachs. Remember – put your baby ‘back’ to sleep.
#2: Don’t smoke around your baby. Your baby is three times more likely to die from SIDS if you smoked during pregnancy. The risk for SIDS also increases with secondhand smoke. If you must smoke, do it outside of your home. But take note that the best thing you can do for you and your child is to quit smoking altogether.
#3: Remove loose blankets, toys, pillows, and stuffed animals, from wherever the baby sleeps (crib, bassinet, pack-and-play). All of these items present a suffocation risk. Make sure that the only thing in your baby’s sleep space is the baby. To keep the baby warm, you can dress them in a onesie, swaddle them, or use a sleep sack. Use only fitted sheets—no loose sheets or blankets—on the crib mattress. Even baby bumpers are discouraged for safety reasons. You can double check how safe your baby’s mattress or crib is by contacting the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772 or visiting www.cpsc.gov.
#4: Keep your sleeping baby in the same room as you but in their own bed. Evidence shows that the risk of SIDS decreases when a baby sleeps in the same room as mom as long as they sleep in a separate bed to prevent smothering. If you have to breastfeed, make it a habit to put your baby back in the crib afterwards. Also, you should never put your baby in bed with another child, even if it’s another baby.
#5: Choose clothes that won’t overheat your baby. Our natural tendency is to want to keep our baby warm, and because we’ve been warned not to use blankets for fear of SIDS, we may tend to “over clothe.” Use your best judgement about what kinds of clothes are appropriate for the temperature in your house. For example, a fleece onesie or swaddle blanket is probably not a good choice for a home that is already warm. Cotton clothes and cotton blankets are more appropriate in the summertime or for warmer homes.
#6: Use a pacifier if your baby will take one. Pacifiers are proven to lower the risk of SIDS, although scientists are still debating the reason why. Just make sure the pacifier is cleaned regularly and get rid of any with damaged nipples as they can present a choking hazard.
#7: Breastfeed if you can, as long as you can. There is evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent. Although doctors aren’t sure why, some believe we can thank the antibodies in breast milk that fight off infections that make babies vulnerable to SIDS. Breastfeeding also encourages bonding and skin-to-skin contact that may have an indirect impact on preventing SIDS.
#8 Do not drink alcohol if you breastfeed. The risk of SIDS increases if there is alcohol in your breast milk. Large doses of alcohol in breast milk can depress a baby’s respiratory and central nervous system and lead to drowsiness, deep sleep, and weakness that can ultimately lead to SIDS.
#9: Get your baby vaccinated. If you find yourself questioning if you should have your baby vaccinated, here’s one big reason to follow the vaccination guidelines set forth by the CDC. There is evidence that babies who are vaccinated are 50 percent less likely to experience SIDS than babies who haven’t been properly or fully immunized. Fifty percent is a big difference!