Safe Infant Sleep: Vital Facts About SIDS (Video)

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October 11, 2016

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(Video: Watch Cynthia M. Amaro, M.D., pediatric neonatologist at Baptist Children’s Hospital, provide vital tips on safe sleeping practices to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.)

It is a terrifying term for new parents — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) — referring to the mostly sleep-related death of an otherwise healthy infant, most commonly occurring during the first six months of life.

It is highly recommended that infants be placed on their backs for sleeping. What is NOT recommended are the following: placing a baby on his or her stomach or on soft surfaces, such as adult mattresses, or placing a baby under or near soft or loose bedding.

SIDS was formerly referred to as “crib death” or “cot death” because it is associated with sleeping babies. SIDS deaths are reported under the broader category of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year in the United States, there are about 3,500 SUID deaths among infants less than 1 year old which have no immediate obvious cause, the CDC says. Out of those SUID deaths, about 1,500 nationwide were classified as SIDS in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available.

October is SIDS Awareness Month. But despite public information campaigns by U.S. agencies, pediatricians and hospitals, many parents still don’t fully understand the risk factors associated with SIDS. Additionally, learning about SIDS and safe-sleeping is important for all care-givers, including babysitters, grandparents, other relatives and anyone else who might care for babies, according to the Safe Infant Sleep campaign by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Educating New Parents
“There are many, many new things to learn when you’re a new parent, but SIDS is one of those things where we can reduce the risk factors for a devastating outcome for the baby,” says Cynthia M. Amaro, M.D., pediatric neonatologist at Baptist Children’s Hospital.

SIDS rates for the United States have dropped steadily since 1994. But recent studies have confirmed that many parents are still putting their babies to sleep incorrectly, or surround them by loose bedding items, or sleep with their babies in their own large beds. All three of these scenarios amount to SIDS risk factors.

When researchers at Penn State College of Medicine videotaped parents putting their children to bed when their babies were 1 month old, 3 months old and 6 months old, they found that the majority put their infants at risk at least once. The videotaped parents either used non-recommended sleeping surfaces, put their babies on their backs or had potentially hazardous items near them. The parents, most of them college-educated, knew they were being videotaped.

The study found that babies who started out on safe sleeping surfaces didn’t end up that way, with 28 percent of 1-month-olds being moved during the night, as did 18 percent of 3-month-olds and 12 percent of 6-month-olds. Most were moved to unsafe locations, particularly in bed with mom or dad.

‘False Sense of Security’
Dr. Amaro also warns about increasingly popular products on the market, such as a “cardio-respiratory monitor” that can be attached to the baby. “These monitors don’t have any research (to back their effectiveness) and they can give parents a false sense of security.”

Another “false sense of security” involves putting babies to sleep with their parents, a trend which is on the rise. Experts say that is a troubling trend. Previously published research has found that from 1993 to 2010 the incidence of baby bed-sharing or co-sleeping more than doubled from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent. Instead of bed sharing, health care providers recommend room sharing — keeping baby’s sleep area separate from your sleep area in the same room where parents sleep, according to the NICHD/ Room sharing is known to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

Top Risk Factors
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, babies are at higher risk for SIDS if they:

  • Sleep on their stomachs
  • Sleep on soft surfaces, such as an adult mattress, couch, or chair or under soft coverings
  • Sleep on or under soft or loose bedding
  • Get too hot during sleep
  • Are exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb or in their environment, such as at home, in the car, in the bedroom, or other areas
  • Sleep in an adult bed with parents, other children, or pets; this situation is especially dangerous if:
  1. The adult smokes, has recently had alcohol, or is tired.
  2. The baby is covered by a blanket or quilt.
  3. The baby sleeps with more than one bed-sharer.
  4. The baby is younger than 11 to 14 weeks of age.

(Watch the video now as Dr. Amaro provides detailed tips for new parents that help reduce the risk of SIDS. Video by Dylan Kyle.)

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