October is a busy month. There are a lot of awareness and celebrations going on this month. There’s Breast Cancer Awareness, Domestic Violence Awareness, International Babywearing Week, National Fire Prevention Week, and ethnic/cultural history, among other things. October is also SIDS Awareness Month. I first learned about SIDS during college when a friend, a first time mom, was assisting on SIDS research. I had no idea what it was but it was something very important to my friend. Today, I know a little bit more about SIDS and am grateful everyday that my son celebrated his first birthday.
What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
SIDS is defined as the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under 1 year old. It falls under the umbrella of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDS).
What causes SIDS?
To date, there is no known cause of SIDS. However, emerging research has indicated that babies who die of SIDS have brain abnormalities which lead to abnormal cardiac and respiratory function, which in combination with other stressors, can lead to death.(1,2)
Who is at risk? What are the risk factors?
SIDS is the leading cause of death of infants 1-12 months. Most SIDS deaths occur between 2 and 4 months of age. The risk of death from SIDS decreases after the age of 1. Approximately 2,300 of the 4,500 (51%) SUIDS that occur annually are diagnosed as SIDS.
Babies at higher risk for SIDS include those who:
– are born to mothers who smoke during and after pregnancy
– sleep on their tummy or side instead of their back
– are born pre-mature or with low birth weight
– are part of a multiple birth
– are born to mothers younger than 20 years old
– did not receive proper prenatal care
– are born to African American or Native American mothers – African American and Native American babies are 2-3 times as likely to die of SIDS than their Caucasian counterpart
How can it be prevented? How can I reduce the risk?
SIDS is not preventable but there are ways to reduce the infant’s risk of SIDS. Caregivers can do the following for reducing the risk:
1. Put babies on their backs to sleep, always.
2. Use a firm sleep surface and never put the baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt, or other soft surface.
3. Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of the baby’s sleep area.
4. Avoid having your baby overheat during sleep.
5. Provide a pacifier during sleep.
What is the Back to Sleep Campaign?
The Back to Sleep Campaign is a concerted effort by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), First Candle/SIDS Alliance, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs to educate parents, caregivers, and health care providers about ways to reduce the risk for SIDS. The campaign recommends that healthy babies sleep on their backs. Since its inception in 1984, the campaign has helped increase the number of infants who sleep on their backs and reduced the rate of SIDS by more than 50%.