SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
It’s hard to imagine a situation more painful than bringing a seemingly healthy infant home from the hospital and suddenly losing the baby to SIDS—sudden infant death syndrome. To make matters even worse, infant deaths, sometimes called crib deaths, often require a police investigation due to the many unanswered questions about this phenomenon. The brutality of being questioned and even suspected of causing the death of one’s infant must be excruciating for the family, as well as for the officers who come to the house.
Causes of SIDS include the following:
· Unidentified brain defects
· Low birth weight
· Premature birth
· A respiratory infection
Doctors have identified several external issues related to sudden infant deaths. Today’s wisdom recommends that a baby younger than one year should always sleep on her back. In many cases, the part of the brain that controls breathing during sleep has not developed thoroughly. In addition, parents are advised to avoid placing babies on soft, fluffy surfaces, which can block tiny nostrils and airways. Crib liners, used to protect a baby’s small head are now considered a breathing hazard. Fortunately, it is possible to purchase a breathable mesh liner for a baby’s crib. Overheating can also become a hazard for SIDS.
In many cases, the cause of death remains unknown. For example, male infants are more vulnerable than female infants. The interval between the second and fourth months of life must be considered a time of concern. In addition, family histories sometimes bring risks. Babies living in environments with second-hand smoke have a higher risk of SIDS. Even mothers can introduce risks. For example, being younger than 20 years of age, smoking cigarettes, using drugs or alcohol, and failing to get good prenatal care all present significant risks. Baby monitors, so commonly used, can be blamed because of frequent failures to alert parents of dangers.
Parents are encouraged to use a firm mattress in cribs, without adding blankets, pillows, or stuffed toys. To avoid overheating a baby, parents are encouraged to swaddle infants or use sleep sacks that can eliminate the need for blankets. Covering a baby’s head is considered dangerous. On the positive side, breast-feeding for at least six months lowers the risk of SIDS. Also, sucking on pacifiers without straps reduces risks. Another important consideration is that many physicians believe immunizations can help prevent sudden infant deaths.
Finally, although parents are encouraged to sleep in the same room as their infants, doctors do not recommend letting a small baby sleep in the same bed with parents. Although tempting, suffocation from close body contact remains a danger until the baby is strong enough to move away from a parent’s body. Those parents who want to co-sleep may be interested in a Baby Bedside Bassinet which has a side next to the bed that can be opened so a parent can easily touch a sleeping infant during the night.
Losing a baby to SIDS is terribly traumatic and may require therapy to heal. Mayo Clinic claims getting emotional help will be critical.