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Sleeping Safety and SIDS

Newborn baby sleeping on his back
iStockphoto/jfairone

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the diagnosis given for the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age. SIDS is the leading cause of death in children under the age of one, and most cases occur between two and four months of age.

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SIDS is sometimes called “crib death” because most cases of SIDS occur when a baby is in a crib, sleeping. Cribs don’t cause SIDS, but other aspects of an infant’s sleeping environment have been associated with an increased risk. For example, bedding that bunches up around a baby’s nose or mouth can cause dangerous re-breathing of oxygen-depleted air.

It’s important to make sure that your baby’s crib is breathable and that you don’t leave unnecessary items in the crib with your child. Other than a fitted sheet, the only thing that should be in the crib with your baby is a lightweight and breathable blanket.

In fact, many SIDS activists prefer a wearable blanket or sleep sack to keep a baby warm at night, replacing loose blankets in the crib and lessening the likelihood of bedding ending up over or around the baby’s face.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the safest position for babies to sleep in, to reduce the likelihood of SIDS, is on their backs.

There is mounting evidence that suggests some babies are more vulnerable to SIDS because of abnormalities found in the part of the brain that controls breathing and waking during sleep. So, while no one knows for sure whether the measures listed above can prevent SIDS, they definitely protect against suffocation and are important precautions to take.

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