Although much about the causes of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is still unknown, doctors do know that the risk of SIDS appears to peak between 2 and 4 months, decrease after 6 months and is extremely rare after one year. We know the idea of SIDS is terrifying, but constantly worrying and checking on your baby throughout the night won't help -- and will only leave you exhausted. The best thing you can do is always place your baby on his back during bedtime and naps, and demand that any caregivers, including grandparents (who may not know about the latest childcare developments), do the same. You should also keep your baby's crib and sleep areas as sparse as possible -- leaving them free of cushy bumpers, pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics first made these recommendations more than 15 years ago, the incidence of SIDS has dropped by about 50 percent. These steps can also help reduce your baby's SIDS risk:
• Don't let baby sleep in bed with you, or co-sleep with caution. The AAP suggests that young babies sleep in a separate bassinet, crib, or cradle in their parents' bedroom. If you decide to co-sleep, however, make sure you do it safely, by having a firm mattress, keeping pillows and adult bedding away from the baby, and always putting the baby on her back. Never co-sleep if you've been drinking or taking medications that make you extra-drowsy.
• Use a firm crib mattress; softer versions can conform to your baby's shape and pose a suffocation risk if he rolls over even slightly. Before choosing a mattress, press on the center and at the edges. It should snap back easily and not mold to the shape of your hand. And don't worry about the mattress being too firm. Also check that the mattress fits properly in your crib. If you can fit more than two fingers between the side of the mattress and the crib, it's too small.
• Don't overdress your baby with too many layers of clothes (on very chilly nights, aim for one more layer than you'd wear). Keep the nursery cool -- around 70 degrees.
• Never smoke around your baby. Studies show that babies of parents who smoke are about three times more likely to suffer from SIDS than those in smoke-free homes.
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.