Few things send a chill down a new parent's spine like the specter of sudden infant death syndrome. For decades, the SIDS rate has hovered at 1 in 1,800 babies. At the same time, the number of infant deaths that are attributable to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed has tripled. Although not all sleep-related infant deaths can be explained, you can significantly reduce your baby's risk by diligently following these steps.
Put Him "Back to Sleep."
Do this for naps too. The carbon dioxide Baby exhales will be less likely to get trapped near his face.
Keep the Crib Bare.
A fitted crib sheet is all you need. Skip crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. All are suffocation hazards for Baby. For more ways to create a safe sleep haven, watch our video at americanbaby.com/crib-video.
Don't Share a Bed.
Studies show that about half of all suffocation deaths among infants happen in an adult bed. You could roll over on Baby, and not realize it; plus, pillows and blankets pose additional dangers.
Instead of bedsharing, have Baby snooze in a bassinet, cosleeper, or crib by your bed. Having Mom nearby can lower SIDS risk.
It's great if you quit smoking during pregnancy. Get support now so you won't start again! Secondhand smoke has been shown to increase the risk for SIDS.
Offer a Paci.
When babies use a Binky while sleeping on their back, their risk for SIDS plunges by two thirds, compared with babies who sleep without one. A possible reason: Babies who suck don't sleep as deeply, which can protect against SIDS.
Breastfeed If You Can.
Research confirms that nursing protects against SIDS, as long as Mom doesn't fall asleep while nursing in bed. Breast milk has anti-inflammatory effects as well, and this may be protective.
When babies who died from SIDS have been discovered, their body temperature has often been very high. Experts believe that overheating may affect a baby's arousal mechanism. Keep the room around 68 degrees F. Worried she'll be cold? Try a sleep sack, a blanket that zips around her body but leaves her arms and head exposed. And turn on a fan. A study at Kaiser Permanente, in Oakland, California, found that babies who slept in a room with a fan had more than a 70 percent reduced risk for SIDS. The airflow could keep carbon dioxide from building up around Baby's face.
Skip Anti-SIDS Gadgets
Unless your baby has a diagnosed cardiac or respiratory illness, using an electronic breathing monitor doesn't help, studies show -- and it may actually give parents a misguided sense of security. Devices marketed to reduce carbon dioxide rebreathing, such as crib mattresses with built-in fans, are also not proven to be effective. And avoid wedge-shaped sleep positioners that claim to keep your baby on her back: An infant can slide off and suffocate against it.
Originally published in American Baby magazine in January 2010. Updated in April 2014.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.