Could Living at a High Altitude Increase Your Baby's Risk of SIDS?

When deciding where to raise our babies, many of us look at the basics: the neighborhood, schools, amenities, and overall quality of life. But should the town's elevation also be on the list?

According to a new study in Colorado, babies there who live above 8,000 feet are more susceptible to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than infants who live at an altitude of 6,000 feet or less. (It's the difference between living in the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains versus a city like Denver.) One possible explanation? There's less oxygen in mountain air, and some previous research has found a connection between SIDS and lower oxygen levels in babies.

But don't rush out and list your mountain home just yet. Researchers stress that more studies are needed to confirm the possible connection. Also, SIDS—even in the higher elevations—is relatively rare, says Dr. David Katz, lead author of the study and a heart specialist at the University of Colorado. In the six years of birth and death certificates he and his team analyzed, only six high-altitude babies died from it. That's 0.8 SIDS deaths per 1,000 births versus 0.4 per 1,000 in Colorado's lower altitudes.

Regardless of where you live, there are things you can do to help reduce your baby's risk of SIDS: Place baby to sleep on his back in a bare crib (that means no pillows, blankets or bumpers), avoid bed-sharing, and keep your child away from cigarette smoke.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her onTwitter, Pinterest, andGoogle+.

Reduce your baby's risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. Learn how to create a safe baby sleep environment with this video courtesy of the NICHD.

Image of baby sleeping courtesy of Shutterstock

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