Protecting Infants in Our Care from SIDS
What Is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected and unexplained death of an infant who is younger than one year. SIDS strikes infants who seem completely healthy, with no signs of illness and no history of injury or trauma. Before an infant’s death is attributed to SIDS, all other possible causes must be considered and ruled out by conducting an autopsy, an investigation of the scene of death, and a through review of the baby’s medical history. When no other explanation for an infant’s death can be identified, the death is considered a case of SIDS.
What Are the Risk Factors for SIDS?
We don’t know exactly what causes death in cases of SIDS. However, several factors have been identified which appear to increase the chances that an infant will die of SIDS. By eliminating these risk factors from our homes and child care environments; we greatly reduce the risk of SIDS among the infants in our care. Parents and caregivers need to understand the important principles of SIDS prevention, including the following:
Infants should never sleep on their tummies. Infants who sleep in the prone position (on their tummies) are at increased risk for SIDS. Parents and caregivers are strongly advised to place infants on their backs for any sleep, at nap time and at night. Never position an infant on his tummy or on his side for sleep. Tummy time is important, and infants do benefit from spending some time in a prone position while they are awake and alert. This allows them to develop the shoulder, arm and neck muscles that they will need later for crawling and turning over. But it is very important that tummy time occur only when an infant is awake and under the watchful eye of a parent or caregiver.
Babies should sleep on a firm, smooth surface. It is important that infants be placed on a smooth and firm sleeping surface, not on a fluffy or soft surface such as sofas, waterbeds and soft mattresses. Heavy plush items such as comforters, stuffed toys or pillows should never be placed in the crib with a baby. The presence of loose fluffy items in the crib or placement of the baby on too soft a surface increases the risk of SIDS.
Don’t over-heat the house or over-dress babies. Infants, who are dressed in too many layers of clothes, have too many heavy blankets on, or sleep in very hot rooms are at higher risk for SIDS. In general, infants need the same number of layers as the adults and older children in the same environment need for warmth and comfort. When an infant is sleeping, provide a light blanket, loosely placed over the baby below shoulder level. Don’t cover babies with plush comforters or heavy quilts.
No smoking where infants sleep, live and play. Infants who are exposed to smoke at home or in child care have a higher chance of dying from SIDS. Infants born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are also at a higher risk.
Co-sleeping with siblings or others puts infants at higher risk of dying from SIDS. The risk is also elevated if the infant is co-sleeping with individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Amer- ican academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep in a separate crib or bassinet.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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