Help Your Baby Sleep Safely

Learn how to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Having a newborn in the home is a transformative time for families. It’s important that every member of the family is aware of how to keep baby safe, especially during sleep. October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month, and Covenant Health Fort Sanders Regional wants to help you keep your baby safe during sleep.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year old. Also known as crib death, most cases of SIDS happen while a baby is asleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 3,500 babies in America die annually from sleep-related infant deaths like SIDS. Most SIDS deaths occur between 2 and 4 months, but the danger is applicable to all babies under a year old.

Risk Factors

While there is no definitive cause of SIDS, there are some risk factors that have been noted. Some babies have been found to have issues related to heart or brain function, respiratory problems or a genetic abnormality. Premature births and low birth weights can also contribute to an increased likelihood of SIDS, as can having another baby who died of SIDS.

Sleeping conditions can also be a risk to babies. Babies should not be put to sleep on their stomach, sleep on a soft surface, have loose items in their cribs or share a bed. Too many clothing layers can cause overheating and increase the risk of SIDS.

Prevention Measures

SIDS cannot always be prevented, but there are things you can do to help your baby sleep in the best conditions to reduce the risk.

  • Babies should sleep on their backs until they are at least a year old.

Sleeping on their stomach or side can restrict the airways. Tummy time is useful for strengthening muscles while awake, but not during sleep.

  • Put the baby to sleep on a firm, flat surface like a crib.

There should not be loose blankets or sheets in the crib. If a baby falls asleep in a sitting device or car seat, move them to a flat surface as soon as possible to avoid restricting the airways.

  • Share a room with the baby, but not a bed.

Babies should sleep in the same room as the parent for at least the first six months, but a year is recommended. They should sleep alone to avoid suffocation.

  • Breastfeed.

Babies who breastfeed for at least six months are found to have a reduced risk of SIDS.

  • Use a pacifier during sleep time.

Once a good breastfeeding routine has been established, try giving the baby a pacifier while they sleep. Do not attach the pacifier to any clothing.

  • Keep the baby’s head and face uncovered during sleep to avoid overheating.

Avoid adding too many layers of clothing and watch for signs of overheating such as flushed skin. Do not keep loose blankets or hats in the bed for warmth.

  • Take the baby for regular checkups and vaccines.

Vaccinated babies have a lower risk of SIDS and are better protected from illness.

  • Do not let people smoke or vape around the baby.

Smoking and vaping around babies significantly increases the risk of SIDS.

  • Follow prenatal care recommendations.

Do not smoke, use drugs or consume alcohol while pregnant, as these can all increase the risk of SIDS. You should also follow the doctor’s advice on any diets or vitamins that might be needed during the pregnancy.

Fort Sanders Regional is dedicated to moms’ and babies’ health, both before and after birth. To learn more about our women’s services, call 865-673-3678.

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