Posts Tagged ‘sudden infant death syndrome’

Reduce the risk of SIDS in your baby

Monday, October 5th, 2015

back to sleepEach year 3500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly in the U.S. These deaths are called sudden unexplained infant deaths (SUID). Most of them happen while the infant is sleeping in an unsafe environment.

SUIDs are reported as one of three types of infant deaths:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
    SIDS is the sudden death of an infant less than one year of age that cannot be explained. It can happen without warning to a baby who seems healthy. One reason a baby is more likely to die of SIDS is if he is  born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).
  • Unknown cause
    This is the death of an infant less than one year of age that cannot be explained because an investigation was not conducted. Therefore, cause of death could not be determined.
  • Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed
    Suffocation can occur if an infant is put to sleep on soft bedding or a pillow. It can also happen when a person rolls on top of an infant or when he becomes wedged between two objects such as a mattress and the bed frame. Strangulation can happen when an infant’s head and neck become caught between two objects such as crib railings.

What can you do?

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month. It is important to understand your baby’s individual risk factors, and learn safe sleep strategies including:

  • ALWAYS, put your baby to sleep on her back, in a crib without bumpers, blankets, stuffed toys or loose bedding.
  • Do not smoke. Babies of parents who smoke are more likely to die of SIDS than other babies.
  • Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime.
  • There are many myths about SIDS – learn the facts.
  • Place your baby in her own bassinet or crib to sleep near your bed, but do not share the same bed. 

The good news is that SUIDs has significantly declined – from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 in 1990 to 39.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 – as a result of safe sleep messaging. See the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep recommendations and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Safe to Sleep campaign.

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Avoid a tragedy – learn safe sleep strategies

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

cropped sleeping babyEvery so often, we hear a tragic story from a new parent. Last week, a three week old baby died of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). This post is in memory of that baby, and our hearts go out to the family.

It is important for parents and caregivers to know safe sleep strategies. Please help us get the word out: ALWAYS, put your baby to sleep on her back, in a crib without bumpers, blankets, stuffed toys or loose bedding.

Back to Sleep and Tummy to Play is an easy way to remember that all healthy babies should be put to sleep on their backs every time until their first birthday. Do not put your baby to sleep on her side, either. Most babies will roll over both ways by the end of the 7th month, but always start them out going to sleep on their backs. You can give your baby tummy time to help strengthen her back muscles when she is awake and you are watching her.

About 3,500 infants (less than one year of age) die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States, according to the CDC. SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies between 1 month and 1 year old. Most SIDS cases happen in babies between 2 and 4 months old. We don’t know what causes SIDS, but certain things can put babies at higher risk:

  • Bed sharing – do not sleep in the same bed as your baby. Sleeping in the same room is suggested, just not the same bed. Bed sharing is the biggest risk factor for SIDS in babies under 4 months of age.
  • Sofa or couch sleeping – do not let your baby sleep on the couch or soft surfaces, including pillows. Nearly 13 percent of infant sleeping deaths are sofa-related.
  • Wearing too many clothes or sleeping in a room that is too hot.
  • Sleeping on her tummy or side.

Read more about safe sleep, mom and baby care and other tips for reducing the risk of SIDS.

If you have questions about putting your baby to sleep, send them to or ask your baby’s health care provider.

If you or someone you know has lost a baby due to SIDS or an unknown reason, the Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center offers bereavement packets to families. Just email us with your mailing address and we will send one to you.

See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.


Updated Sept. 2015

Safe sleep for babies

Friday, October 24th, 2014

cropped sleeping babySafe sleep can help protect babies from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related dangers, like suffocation (not being able to breathe). Newborns sleep about 16 hours a day, so it’s important to make sure that where and how they sleep are safe.

Here are some things you can do to help keep your baby safe when she sleeps:

Where to put your baby to sleep
• Put your baby to sleep on her back on a flat, firm surface—a crib is best. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib so there are no spaces between the mattress and the crib frame.
• Keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and other soft objects out of your baby’s crib. They put babies in danger of getting trapped, strangled or suffocating. This is important even as your baby gets older. A study recently published in Pediatrics showed that “rolling to prone [stomach], with objects in the sleep area, is the predominant risk factor for older infants.”
• Share your bedroom with your baby but not your bed. Co-sleeping means that babies and parents sleep together in the same bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that babies should not co-sleep with their parents and studies have shown that bed-sharing is the biggest risk factor for SIDS in children under four months. Instead, put your baby to bed in her own crib and keep it close to your bed during the night. This will allow you keep an eye on your baby and to breastfeed her easily.
• Don’t put your baby to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or other soft surface. “Of nearly 8,000 infant sleeping deaths in the United States, researchers found that about 12 percent were sofa-related. And nearly three-quarters of those infants were newborns.”

How to put your baby to sleep
• Put your baby to sleep on her back every time, until she’s 1 year old. It’s not safe for babies to sleep on their side or tummy. Most babies will roll over both ways by the end of the 7th month; but start them out on their backs.
• Dress your baby in light sleep clothes. Keep the room at a temperature that’s comfortable for you. If your baby is sweating or her chest feels hot, she may be overheated.
• Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. Don’t hang the pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach the pacifier to your baby’s clothing or a stuffed animal.
• Don’t use products, such as special mattresses or wedges, that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that they do.

Mom and baby care
• Feed your baby only breast milk for at least 6 months. Continue breastfeeding your baby until at least her first birthday.
• Don’t smoke and don’t let anyone smoke in your home or around your baby.
• Take your baby to all her well baby visits and make sure she gets her vaccinations on time.
• Give your baby tummy time every day. Tummy time helps your baby develop her neck, shoulder and arm muscles.

Have questions? Email us at

Back sleeping and flat head syndrome

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Back to Sleep Campaign was launched in the early 1990s to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending placing babies on their backs when putting them to bed, the number of cases of SIDS has been cut in half, according to the CDC. That’s wonderful!

But something that has increased since then is the number of cases of babies with flat head syndrome, sometimes referred to as positional plagiocephaly. If babies spend all of their time on their backs, it can lead to positional flattening or molding of the head. The good news is that a new report published in the journal Pediatrics, has been written to help guide pediatricians in recognizing, managing and even preventing skull deformities in otherwise healthy children.

Babies’ skulls are soft and are made up of several skull plates. These movable plates have space between them, called sutures, that allow the head to be flexible so that the brain can grow. If the head is left in the same position for long periods of time, the plates move in a way that leaves a flat spot.
Most cases of positional plagiocephaly can be prevented (and sometimes corrected) by repositioning, which relieves pressure from the back of an infant’s head. Techniques for repositioning include:
– Making sure your baby gets more tummy time
– Changing the direction your baby lies in her crib from one week to the next.
– Changing the location of the crib in your baby’s room so that she will turn her head to look in other directions.
– Avoiding too much time in carriers, car seats and bouncers while your baby is awake
– Getting “cuddle time” with your baby by holding her upright over your shoulder several times a day.

More severe cases of positional plagiocephaly can be corrected by having the baby wear a custom helmet or band for two to four months. Be sure to chat with your baby’s provider about head shape at each well-child checkup.

Keep your baby safe when she sleeps

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

baby-sleepingI love watching my little girl sleep in her crib! She looks like an angel, all peaceful and quiet – nothing like the silly, giggly goose she is when she’s awake.

When we first set her crib up and laid out all the crib bedding, I couldn’t wait to see how it would brighten up her room. But I wasn’t quite sure about the bumper. It looked so cute, but was it safe?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has new sleep safety guidelines for baby and now says a big fat NO to crib bumpers.  The AAP says loose bedding, like crib bumpers, and soft objects, like stuffed animals or pillows, put babies at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), suffocation and strangulation.

The AAP guidelines highlight other ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, like:
Put your baby to sleep on her back.
• Use a firm crib mattress.
• Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib.
• Have your baby sleep in her crib in your room.
• Offer your baby a pacifier at night and during nap times.
• Avoid overheating your baby. Overbundling or using too many layers can overheat your baby.
Breastfeed. Breastfeeding has shown to lessen the risk of SIDS.
• Don’t smoke, use drugs or drink alcohol.

Breastfeeding – protection against SIDS

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

breastfeeding37468747_thmA new study just published in the journal Pediatrics reports that breastfeeding your baby is protective against SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. The study states that breastfeeding’s protective benefits apply regardless of the extent and length of time a baby is breastfed, although the longer the time the greater the benefit.

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year old. It is particularly worrying because it can occur without warning in a baby who seems healthy. While most SIDS cases happen in babies between 2 and 4 months old, it is the leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year old.

Dr. Fern Hauck and her colleagues from the University of VA School of Medicine reviewed over 280 studies of breastfeeding and SIDS that had been conducted over a 43 year period of time.  They focused on 18 studies that met their specific criteria. Their analysis showed that breastfeeding is protective against SIDS, and this effect is stronger when babies are exclusively breastfed.  Infants who had received any breastmilk for any amount of time had their risk factor reduced by 60 percent. If the infants had been breastfed up to the age of two months or older, their risk was 62% lower. In infants who had been exclusively fed breastmilk, the researchers saw the greatest reduction – their risk was 73% lower.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed only breast milk (no water, formula, other liquids or solids) for about the first 6 months of life. Women should continue to breastfeed their babies for the next six months while solid foods are introduced. They can continue breastfeeding after 12 months as long as mother and baby desire.

You can read more about reducing the risk of SIDS at this link.

Back vs. tummy time

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

tummy-timeAlmost all of us have heard about the Back to Sleep campaign to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under one year old.   Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs, but “tummy time” is important, too. Babies still need to develop their neck, shoulder and arm muscles. The best way to help your newborn build her muscles is to give her some tummy time while she’s awake and being watched. Never leave your baby alone during tummy time. When the baby gets tired, place the baby on her back to sleep.

I read an interesting article in The New York Times yesterday about tummy time and its importance.  What really caught my eye were the comments left after the article.  While most parents are aware of the Back to Sleep recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the success rate of reducing SIDS, a number of parents said they didn’t agree with it and put their babies to sleep on their stomachs.  I was stunned.  You know what we think.  What do you think?

A new twist on SIDS prevention

Friday, February 20th, 2009

A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (October 2008) reported that using a fan in your baby’s room can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by more than 70 per cent.  Fan use in warmer room temperatures had a greater reduction of risk than in cooler rooms.  Fan use also reduced risks for babies who were not using pacifiers, but it did not apply to babies who were using pacifiers.  It may be that keeping the air moving my prevent carbon dioxide from pooling around a sleeping baby.

UPDATE:  The American Academy of Pediatrics does not yet recommend that parents use a fan.  We need more research to be done before we know if fans really can help reduce the risk of SIDS.  In the meantime, fans placed in a safe location aren’t likely to cause any harm.  Talk to your child’s health care provider about it for more info.

Back to sleep

Friday, October 10th, 2008

My mother, who is in her 80s, recently asked me what is wrong with most babies’ heads these days.  “They all have bald spots in the middle of the back of their heads.  Is there a ringworm epidemic going around?”  Trying not to giggle I said no, it comes from laying babies on their backs all the time while they sleep.  The Back to Sleep campaign was created to help prevent SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  I explained:

SIDS is the sudden death of an infant under the age of one year for no apparent reason.  SIDS is sometimes called “crib death” because it usually looks like a peacefully sleeping baby just never wakes up in her crib.  Parents should know always to put their baby to sleep on her back.  This means at naptime as well as bedtime. They should make sure anyone babysitting (grandma, sister, friend or neighborhood teen) knows to do this, too.  This will reduce the risk of SIDS.

Some people worry that a baby on her back might choke if she spits up while sleeping.  But research shows that this is not so.  In fact, it has been proven that babies who sleep on their stomach or side are more likely to die of SIDS than back sleepers.  While it is important to give babies time on their tummies, we need to make sure it’s while they are awake.  Be with your baby while she kicks and wiggles and strengthens her neck and shoulder muscles.  When she tires, put her on her back to sleep.

By the way, October is SIDS, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Learn more about this and share the news with your family and friends.