Jennifer is a former microbiologist turned mom, writer, and pet sitter. Jennifer, along with her husband, three boys (plus a menagerie of pets) live in North Carolina. She has written for websites including Scary Mommy, Pregnant Chicken, BabyGaga, Her View From Home.
When I became a new mom I did a lot, and I mean a LOT, of research on SIDS. I read dozens of articles and aimed to follow all the guidelines: I didn’t allow blankets except sleep sacks, always put them on their back, worried a lot when they started to flip over to their belly. It seemed that keeping an infant alive was fraught with peril around every corner. So for all those new moms out there, here’s what you need to know.
So what is SIDS?
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, affects infants less than twelve months and there are certain risk factors that have been identified.
Things that can increase the risk of SIDS are: brain defects, low birth weight, respiratory infection, age, sex, race, family history and secondhand smoke. Male infants, premature infants, and non-Caucasian infants (for reasons we don’t understand) are at a slightly higher risk.
Certain habits or aspects of the mother can also increase an infant’s risk of SIDS including young mothers (below 20), smokers, drug and alcohol users, and those who have inadequate prenatal care.
The SIDS rate in the US remains high when compared to other developed countries though over all ethnic groups, the SIDS rate has dropped in the United States since 1994.
This brings us to the important question: When can I stop worrying about SIDS?
The textbook answer is at twelve months.
At twelve months most infants are developed enough and strong enough, sitting, standing, sometimes walking and SIDS becomes less of a worry.
Studies say that SIDS affects most infants between two and four months of age. When I was doing my research, I found that the risk lowered after four months and then lowered even further after six months. After six months most infants are strong enough to push up and roll over. In my reading, I found that once an infant can roll him or herself over, you no longer have to worry about them sleeping on their stomach.
Precautionary measure to take
While you may never feel completely indifferent to SIDS until the kid is in college, there are certain things you can do to help prevent SIDS.
Always place them on their back to sleep. As I mentioned earlier, once they can roll themselves over you don’t need to go in and turn them back. Keep the crib empty of blankets, pillows and stuffed toys. Use only a sheet on a firm mattress and if worried about cold, use a sleep sack, like the one pictured below.
Don’t overheat your baby, keep him in your room as long as possible and breastfeed, again if possible. Use a pacifier. Immunize your baby. There is no evidence that immunizations can increase the risk of SIDS and some evidence indicates that they can decrease risk.
Some of the advice above I followed and some was not possible. For example, I did not breastfeed, my babies wouldn’t take a pacifier and they didn’t stay in our room until six months.
There is not enough known to ensure that all babies are safe from SIDS. So follow all precautions that you can. Now, Excuse me while I go check on my five-month-old!