Tip Five & Six
5. Keep an eye on the thermostat. There's been a lot of debate about whether a baby's risk of SIDS goes up when she's overheated. Some doctors think extra-warm air lulls little ones into a deeper sleep, which may make them more vulnerable, or that it dulls their respiratory controls, so they can't respond to conditions that might make their breathing and heart rate slow down.
And don't reach for the cigarettes after your baby's born, either: He'll be twice as likely to die of SIDS if one or both of his parents smoke in the house.
On the other hand, SIDS is more prevalent in the colder months. NICHD experts think this may be because infants face a greater risk of infections during this time, or because they're overbundled.
As a rule, keep your baby's room at a temperature that you yourself feel is comfortable. Don't put her crib or bassinet directly next to a radiator or other heat source. In warm weather, cool the room with an air conditioner or fan, and dress your baby in lightweight sleepwear.
6. Stop smoking. If a woman smokes while she's pregnant, her baby is about three times more likely to die of SIDS than if he'd been born to a nonsmoker. No one's sure whether it's the nicotine in Mom's blood that's to blame or a decreased blood supply to the fetus (smoking constricts blood vessels, including those leading to the placenta). "We think that when a pregnant woman smokes, it may affect her fetus's brain or lung development, changing the baby's response to low oxygen levels," says Dr. Willinger, of the NICHD. "Smoking also hampers a fetus's general growth and development, so quitting can improve your child's health far beyond just decreasing his SIDS risk."
If you let your baby have a Binky while he sleeps, here's a point in your favor: Recent research by Fern R. Hauck, M.D., of the University of Virginia, suggests those little suckers may just help protect against SIDS. According to Dr. Hauck's two-and-a-half-year study, which involved more than 500 infants in the Chicago area, those who had no pacifiers at sleeptime were three times more likely to die of SIDS. The link needs to be investigated, Dr. Hauck says. But two theories are that sucking on a pacifier may ensure that a baby stays faceup and that sucking may keep his airway open.