Infants

Laying Babies On Their Backs To Sleep Has Slashed The Rate Of SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among babies between one month and one year of age. Although the medical community doesn't know the exact cause of SIDS, they have found some preventative measures that parents can take to help protect their littles ones from harm.

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Why It's Important

SIDS, also called "crib death" or "cot death," is defined as the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than one year of age, and it's only determined as the cause of death when a complete investigation finds no other cause. The mystery that surrounds SIDS makes it a particularly devastating event for parents. Research suggests that infants who die from SIDS are born with brain abnormalities or defects, but no screening tests currently exist to pick up on those abnormalities. In an instance where "nature" is so hard to control, experts are instead encouraging parents to take preventative measures on the "nurture" side.

The National Institute of Child Health and Development is clear on this: "The single most effective action that parents and caregivers can take to lower a baby's risk of SIDS is to place the baby to sleep on his or her back for naps and at night." The only time you should place a baby tummy-side-down is when he or she is awake, as it's good for muscle development and for maintaining a healthy head shape. However, when a baby sleeps on his or her stomach, they face between 1.7 and 12.9 times the risk of SIDS.

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Why People Are Talking About It

The NICHD's Safe to Sleep campaign reduced the occurrence of SIDS by 50 percent from 1992 to 1999. The campaign also successfully increased the rate of back sleeping by 74 percent between the years of 2001 and 2009. Those are large margins! How did they do it? Well, they educated parents on the following sleep safety tips:

To start, while you're pregnant, you should receive regular prenatal care and avoid both alcohol and drug use. After your baby is born, both you and others should avoid smoking in his or her presence. In addition to laying a baby on his or her back to sleep, parents should also provide a firm and flat sleep area free from extra bedding, toys, and other objects. It might sound a bit extreme, but all they really need is a fitted sheet. Parents should also try to share a room with their baby for at least their first six months and ideally up to a year, but not the same bed. To read more tips, review the Safe to Sleep website. Then, help spread the word!

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