October is SIDS Awareness Month

SIDS Awareness Month
 
If you follow our blog, you may remember that last month was Newborn Screening Awareness Month. We talked a lot about the importance of newborn screening, and about how parents can stay informed.

The month of October is significant for families, too — it’s SIDS Awareness month. Here at the Baby Sleep Site®, we’re committed to joining the effort to raise awareness about what SIDS is and how parents can lower SIDS risk. As we’ve said in past articles, safe sleep habits are just as important as healthy sleep habits.

And, the efforts to educate families about safe sleep habits are working. Since 1994, when the Back to Sleep campaign was launched, rates of SIDS around the globe have dropped significantly.

What Is SIDS?

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) refers to the sudden, unexpected death of a baby under 1 year of age. The death almost always follows a period of sleep. If experts can find no cause of death after a formal investigation, then the death is considered SIDS.

Of course, not every sudden and unexpected infant death is due to SIDS. Some are due to underlying medical conditions (like metabolic disorders, or heart defects.) Others are due to parental neglect. Still others are caused by accidental suffocation.

What Causes SIDS?

There’s no established cause of SIDS. It’s called a “diagnosis of exclusion”, meaning that it’s the diagnosis given after everything else has been ruled out.

Although medical experts haven’t found a cause, they have identified many risk factors that contribute to SIDS. Those include:

  • Physical Factors — Factors like brain abnormalities, low birth weight, and respiratory issues can increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Sleeping Environment Factors — Babies who sleep on their tummies or sides, babies who sleep on overly soft bedding or with loose blankets, and babies who sleep with their parents are more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Other Factors — Boys are more likely to die of SIDS than girls, and babies are most vulnerable in their second and third month of life. Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke (both before and after birth) have a higher risk of SIDS. Babies who have a family history of SIDS are also at greater risk.

Can SIDS Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent SIDS entirely. Sometimes, parents do everything right, and they still lose a little one to SIDS.

However, there are preventative steps parents can take, and research has shown again and again that when these steps are taken, SIDS rates are reduced.

  • Expectant mothers can lower SIDS risks by getting quality prenatal care, and by not smoking during their pregnancies.
  • Don’t expose your baby to cigarette smoke after birth. Studies have shown that babies who are exposed to tobacco smoke have higher risks of SIDS.
  • ALWAYS place your baby on his back to sleep. Babies who sleep on their tummies, or on their sides, are at greater risk of SIDS.
  • Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is safe. The mattress should be firm and fit tightly in the crib, and the only bedding should include a snug, fitted sheet. Avoid crib bumpers; these have recently been outlawed in several states. Furthermore, keep all blankets, stuffed animals, etc. out of the crib.
  • Don’t sleep with your baby. Research has indicated that babies who sleep with adults, on adults beds or on couches or chairs, have a much higher risk of SIDS, and of accidental suffocation.
  • Consider putting your baby’s crib in your bedroom. Sleeping with your baby isn’t the safest sleeping arrangement, but sleeping near your baby is. In fact, studies have shown that when a baby sleeps near his mom, his risk of SIDS is low.
  • Prevent your baby from overheating. Dress your baby in light layers, and keep her room at a comfortable temperature. Babies who are too hot are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • If you’re concerned that your baby’s not warm enough, use sleep sacks. These wearable blankets provide warmth, but they don’t carry the same risks as loose, heavy blankets.
  • Run a fan in your baby’s room. Studies have indicated that fans provide better air circulation and reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Prevent respiratory infections as best you can. In your baby’s early months of life, avoid crowded places. Ask that people wash their hands before touching or holding your baby. Research has shown that SIDS sometimes occurs after respiratory infections, like colds.
  • Discuss all of these steps with your baby’s care providers. Make sure anyone who looks after your baby knows about safe sleep practices and will carefully follow these guidelines.

Other SIDS Resources

Looking for more information on what SIDS is, and on how to lower the risk? Use these helpful resources:

http://www.sidscenter.org

http://www.sidsamerica.org/sids-resources

http://www.firstcandle.org/grieving-families/grief-resources/local-support/ (a state-by-state guide to finding local support)

Raising SIDS Awareness

If you follow our blog, you may remember that last month was Newborn Screening Awareness Month. We talked a lot about the importance of newborn screening, and about how parents can stay informed.

The month of October is significant for families, too — it’s SIDS Awareness month. Here at the Baby Sleep Site®, we’re committed to joining the effort to raise awareness about what SIDS is and how it can be prevented. As we’ve said in past articles, safe sleep habits are just as important as healthy sleep habits.

And, the efforts to educate families about safe sleep habits are working. Since 1994, when the Back to Sleep campaign was launched, rates of SIDS around the globe have dropped significantly.

What Is SIDS?

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) refers to the sudden, unexpected death of a baby under 1 year of age. The death almost always follows a period of sleep. If experts can find no cause of death after a formal investigation, then the death is considered SIDS.

Of course, not every sudden and unexpected infant death is due to SIDS. Some are due to underlying medical conditions (like metabolic disorders, or heart defects.) Others are due to parental neglect. Still others are caused by accidental suffocation.

What Causes SIDS?

There’s no established cause of SIDS. It’s called a “diagnosis of exclusion”, meaning that it’s the diagnosis given after everything else has been ruled out.

Although medical experts haven’t found a cause, they have identified many risk factors that contribute to SIDS. Those include:

  • Physical Factors — Factors like brain abnormalities, low birth weight, and respiratory issues can increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Sleeping Environment Factors — Babies who sleep on their tummies or sides, babies who sleep on overly soft bedding or with loose blankets, and babies who sleep with their parents are more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Other Factors — Boys are more likely to die of SIDS than girls, and babies are most vulnerable in their second and third month of life. Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke (both before and after birth) have a higher risk of SIDS. Babies who have a family history of SIDS are also at greater risk.

Can SIDS Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent SIDS entirely. Sometimes, parents do everything right, and they still lose a little one to SIDS.

However, there are preventative steps parents can take, and research has shown again and again that when these steps are taken, SIDS rates are drastically reduced.

  • Expectant mothers can lower the risk of SIDS by getting quality prenatal care, and by not smoking during their pregnancies.
  • Don’t expose your baby to cigarette smoke after birth. Studies have shown that babies who are exposed to tobacco smoke have higher risks of SIDS.
  • ALWAYS place your baby on his back to sleep. Babies who sleep on their tummies, or on their sides, are at greater risk of SIDS.
  • Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is safe. The mattress should be firm and fit tightly in the crib, and the only bedding should include a snug, fitted sheet. Avoid crib bumpers; these have recently been outlawed in several states. Furthermore, keep all blankets, stuffed animals, etc. out of the crib.
  • Don’t sleep with your baby. Research has indicated that babies who sleep with adults, on adults beds or on couches or chairs, have a much higher risk of SIDS, and of accidental suffocation.
  • Consider putting your baby’s crib in your bedroom. Sleeping with your baby isn’t safe, but sleeping near your baby is. In fact, studies have shown that when a baby sleeps near his mom, his risk of SIDS is low.
  • Prevent your baby from overheating. Dress your baby in light layers, and keep her room at a comfortable temperature. Babies who are too hot are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • If you’re concerned that your baby’s not warm enough, use sleep sacks. These wearable blankets provide warmth, but they don’t carry the same risks as loose, heavy blankets.
  • Run a fan in your baby’s room. Studies have indicated that fans provide better air circulation and reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Prevent respiratory infections as best you can. In your baby’s early months of life, avoid crowded places. Ask that people wash their hands before touching or holding your baby. Research has shown that SIDS sometimes occurs after respiratory infections, like colds.
  • Discuss all of these steps with your baby’s care providers. Make sure anyone who looks after your baby knows about safe sleep practices and will carefully follow these guidelines.

Other SIDS Resources

Looking for more information on what SIDS is, and on how to lower the risk? Use these helpful resources:

http://www.sidscenter.org

http://www.sidsamerica.org/sids-resources

http://www.firstcandle.org/grieving-families/grief-resources/local-support/ (a state-by-state guide to finding local support)

How Can You Help?

The Baby Sleep Site® would to ask our readers and community to help us continue to raise awareness for how to reduce the risks associated with SIDS. We ask that you share this post with your family, friends and your community. We will be tracking the number of times this article is shared and for each time this article is shared, we will be donating $1.00 to an organization that supports SIDS awareness and research up to a maximum of $750. Feel free come back daily and share this information. The more shares, the more we raise for SIDS Awareness and Research! Last year we had almost 300 shares, help try to beat that number this year.

Here are some ways you can share this article:

  1. Click any of the Social Share buttons at the bottom of this post to share this post with your friends, family and online networks. These buttons will keep a running tally of how many times they are clicked.
  2. Share this post on Twitter with the tag #SIDS by clicking the button below:

  3. Share this link, http://bit.ly/sidsawareness via email or in any other online forum or social network such as your blog or tumblr. Using this specific link helps us to be able to track how many times it was clicked.

Thank you in advance for helping us promote safe sleep for all babies!

Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous?

 
Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous

A recent article published in USA Today has added fuel to an already-raging fire — the debate over co-sleeping. The article references a new study, which found that while the number of SIDS-related deaths has dropped by over 50% in the past two decades (since the introduction of the “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1994 began discouraging tummy sleeping), the drop has plateaued recently. What’s more, the number of SIDS-related deaths as a result of co-sleeping is actually on the rise.

There’s no doubt that co-sleeping is a controversial topic, with parents offering strong and emotional opinions on both sides. Reports like the one in USA Today seem to indicate that co-sleeping is dangerous, but co-sleeping advocates point to research showing that it’s safe. So what do we make of this? Is co-sleeping actually dangerous? Should you and your baby co-sleep?

Defining Our Terms: Co-Sleeping vs. Room Sharing vs. Bed-Sharing

First, let’s get our terms straight. Co-sleeping simply means that a child shares a sleeping space with a parent. With that in mind, co-sleeping can mean a baby sleeping in the same bed as his parents; however, it can also mean a baby in a bassinet next to the bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls that kind of sleeping arrangement “room-sharing”. Room-sharing is considered completely safe, as long as baby’s sleeping area follows safety guidelines (no loose bedding, firm mattress that’s flush with the sides of the bassinet, tight-fitting bottom sheet, etc.) Bed-sharing refers to the practice of parents and children sharing the same bed. Bed-sharing (specifically when infants are involved) carries far more risks than other forms of co-sleeping.

Can Co-Sleeping Be Dangerous?

Room-sharing is safe; bed-sharing, however, is inherently risky, specifically when it involves young infants. As rates of bed-sharing continue to rise in the United States, so do the rates of infant deaths related to bed-sharing. The most obvious danger related to bed-sharing is suffocation. An adult (or an older child) can roll on top of a baby, or the baby can be smothered by the large pillows and heavy blankets that most adults use in bed. Some less obvious dangers include a baby falling from the mattress to the floor, or a baby becoming wedged between the mattress and the headboard/footboard or wall. The mattress itself can also be a threat; if it’s overly soft, a baby can sink too low and suffocate.

As a growing number of babies die due to bed-sharing, health organizations are stepping up their efforts to warn parents. The AAP, along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has issued precautions against bed-sharing, warning parents that it puts babies at a much higher risk of suffocation. And warnings like these aren’t just happening on a national scale; they’re happening at the local level, too. Bed-sharing was blamed for causing increasing rates of infant death in Milwaukee, WI, so the city’s health department responded by releasing a highly controversial ad depicting a baby curled up (in an adult bed) next to a large butcher knife. When critics attacked the ad as extreme (and it is), Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health replied, “…what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better [infant death] rates than Milwaukee.”

Can Co-Sleeping Be Safe?

Again, room-sharing arrangements are considered very safe. In fact, the AAP recommends room-sharing as the best sleeping arrangement for infants, since it’s been shown to produce lower rates of SIDS than a solitary sleeping arrangement (which places baby in a room by herself.) And while bed-sharing is statistically less safe, advocates of bed-sharing point out that research studies (like the one cited in the USA Today article) fail to account for a variety of factors and ultimately make bed-sharing seem more dangerous than it actually is.

For example, researchers refer to bed-sharing as a baby and an adult sharing an “adult bed.” But an adult bed doesn’t necessarily mean an actual bed — in these studies, it can also mean a couch, or a recliner, or a waterbed (all surfaces that bed-sharing advocates would never recommend using). Research studies also fail to account for safety factors like smoking, or drug and alcohol abuse (parents who smoke or use drugs or alcohol should never bed-share.) Even factors like obesity, which advocates say should be considered (since obese parents are advised not to bed-share), aren’t considered in research studies.

Supporters of bed-sharing claim that when these factors are considered, research shows that safe bed-sharing practices make putting a baby to sleep in an adult bed just as harmless as putting a baby to sleep in a crib. In fact, a 2006 study indicates that when researchers controlled for these kinds of safety factors, rates of infant death related to safe bed-sharing proved to be very low.

UPDATE MAY 2013: A study published on May 20th, 2013 reveals that any kind of bed-sharing, even safe bed-sharing, increases an infant’s risk of SIDS five-fold. The study’s researchers found that even in the safest of settings, bed-sharing presents a dramatic increase in the risk of SIDS. This stands in direct opposition to the 2006 study which found that safe bed-sharing produces low rates of infant death.

Supporters also point to the fact that co-sleeping in all its forms (including bed-sharing) has been the norm for human infants since the dawn of time, while putting babies in cribs, in their own rooms, alone, is a practice that’s less than 200 years old. Anthropologist Dr. James McKenna, an outspoken advocate of co-sleeping, points to these facts as proof that mothers and babies are biologically designed to sleep together, and he asserts that co-sleeping is the best sleeping arrangement for families.

Finally, bed-sharing advocates emphasize that while co-sleeping is no longer standard practice in most Western cultures, it remains the norm in many, many countries around the world. These advocates are quick to point out that if it works for families around the globe, it can work for families in the West.

An important note, though, about comparing bed-sharing in Western countries to bed-sharing around the world: the comparison isn’t always a fair one. Western-style beds (with their soft, elevated mattresses as shown above, and their abundance of pillows and blankets) make bed-sharing more dangerous than do other types of beds found around the world. What’s more, health-habits vary worldwide, making the bed-sharing comparison a tricky one. Western mothers are more likely to smoke than are Japanese mothers, for example; this may partly explain why Japan has an extremely low rate of deaths related to bed-sharing. It’s best to take cultural differences like this into account when looking at bed-sharing from an international perspective.

Should You Co-Sleep Or Not?

Putting a baby to bed is a bit like stepping into a car. There are risks associated with driving, and traveling in a car can certainly kill you. But there are many steps you can take to make driving safe, like wearing a seat belt, obeying traffic signs, and taking proper care of your vehicle. Baby sleep can work the same way. There are risks associated with any sleeping arrangement, but parents can take steps to make their baby’s sleep environment as safe as possible. Parents who educate themselves and practice safe co-sleeping shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about their decision. And of course, neither should parents who choose not to co-sleep; after all, it won’t work for everyone! That was certainly the case with Nicole — during the short time she co-slept, she found herself so worried about harming her son that she hardly slept at all.

A final word: while many forms of co-sleeping are safe, bed-sharing is inherently risk. There are ways to bed-share safely, but the list of precautions is long, and some of the precautions themselves border on extreme. For example, it’s recommended that you remove pillows and blankets from the bed, and even that you put your mattress directly on the floor. It’s also safest if the only people in bed are mom and baby, meaning that if dad is around, he needs to find somewhere else to sleep! What’s more, safety guidelines specify that some people shouldn’t bed-share, including those who smoke and use drugs/alcohol, those who are obese, and those who are “overly exhausted.” That last one is bound to exclude many readers of this blog! If you’re considering bed-sharing, remember to review the list of precautions carefully, and then commit to following them. Otherwise, we recommend that you consider a different method of co-sleeping.

What do you think? Room-sharing? Bed-sharing? No-sharing? Tell us your thoughts on co-sleeping!

At The Baby Sleep Site, we’re committed to remaining judgment-free when it comes to parenting styles. We’ve worked with all kinds of parents (including those who are committed co-sleepers), and we’ve manage to help their babies sleep while respecting them as parents. So whether you room-share or bed-share (or neither!), The Baby Sleep Site has sleep products and services that’ll work for you!

Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

How You Can Help Raise Awareness for SIDS

October is SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Awareness Month. At The Baby Sleep Site™, we strongly believe in helping to create as much awareness about SIDS as we can. Safe sleep habits are just as important as healthy sleep habits. Each year we post about SIDS to help to continue to educate parents and families about how to help best ensure that babies are sleeping as safely as possible. The number of babies dying from SIDS continues to decline and a large part of that decline is attributed to raising the awareness of how to reduce the risks of SIDS.

What is SIDS?
SIDS is the diagnosis given when an infant under one year of age dies suddenly and there is no other medial explanation for the death after a complete examination.

What causes SIDS?
New studies and research suggest that some SIDS babies are born with brain abnormalities that make them susceptible to SIDS as infants. These studies have shown that many SIDS infants have abnormalities in the portion of their brain that controls breathing and waking during sleep. Babies born with other brain or body defects may also be more prone to sudden death. Other studies have suggested that lower serotonin levels may also play a role in SIDS.

Additional research and studies out this year suggest additional findings that further support having babies sleep on their backs. A study out of Australia suggested that babies who sleep on their stomachs had lower levels of oxygen than babies who slept on their backs. This research is perhaps one indicator of why babies who sleep on their stomachs may be at a higher risk for SIDS, as the lower levels of oxygen may mean their brains are less able to wake them if they are in danger of not breathing.

SIDS is most likely to occur in infants between one month and 12 months of age with the majority of deaths occurring between 2 and 4 months of age. The risk of SIDS goes down significantly after the first year.

Can SIDS be prevented?
Currently, there is no way to completely prevent SIDS. There are steps parents can take to help reduce the risks associated with SIDS.

  • Place babies on their backs to sleep. If baby falls asleep on his tummy, gently roll baby onto his back.
  • Be sure to use a crib mattress that meets current safety and regulation standards. Crib mattresses should be firm and fit snugly in the crib frame. Crib sheets should be tight fitting.
  • Do not place anything soft, loose or fluffy in the crib such as pillows, stuffed animals or crib bumpers. Crib bumpers have recently be outlawed in several states this year.
  • Use a baby sleep sack or other type of sleeper rather than blankets to help keep baby warm.
  • Make sure your baby does not get too warm while sleeping (Click here to read about baby’s ideal temperature). Use light sleep clothing or sleep clothing that helps to regulate body temperature and keep the room temperature at a level that is comfortable.
  • Do not place baby to sleep on any soft surface such as a pillow top mattress, pillows, comforters, water beds or sheepskin.
  • Good prenatal care and breastfeeding can also help to lower the risk of SIDS.
  • Babies with mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at three times the risk for SIDS and babies’ exposure to passive smoke can double the risk of SIDS.
  • Educate those in your life and those who care for your baby about safe sleep practices.

For More Information about SIDS and SIDS Resources

Here are some additional resources for where you can find additional information about SIDS, safe sleep practices for babies and support resources for families who have lost a child to SIDS:

  • National Sudden & Unexpected Infant/Child Death & Pregnancy Loss Resource Center- www.SIDSCenter.org
  • National Institute of Child Health & Human Development- SIDS “Back to Sleep” Campaign- www.nichd.nih.gov/sids/

How You Can Help

The Baby Sleep Site™ would to ask our readers and community to help us continue to raise awareness for how to reduce the risks associated with SIDS. We ask that you share this post with your family, friends and your community. We will be tracking the number of times this article is shared and for each time this article is shared, we will be donating $1.00 to an organization that supports SIDS awareness and research up to a maximum of $500. Here are some ways you can share this article:

  • Click the blue “Facebook” Share button at the bottom of this post. This button will keep a running tally of how many times it is clicked.
  • Share this post on Twitter with this link: http://bit.ly/sleepsafely and tag with #safesleep. This way we can track how often it was shared on Twitter.
  • Share this link, http://bit.ly/sleepsafely via email or in any other online forum or social netowrk such as your blog, tumblr, or LinkedIn. Using this specific link helps us to be able to track it.
  • Together, we can do our part to help promote safe sleep for all babies!

SIDS Awareness and Baby Sleep Bags

With the end of October comes the end of SIDS Awareness month for 2010. Here at The Baby Sleep Site, we were happy to have spent time sharing with our readers how to help reduce the risks for SIDS. Based on your comments, so many of our readers are already using or have used baby sleep sacks to help keep babies warm while sleeping in place of blankets or other bedding. It’s efforts like these that have helped reduce the number of babies lost to SIDS.

We had a number of really great comments about SIDS Awareness and about the baby sleep sacks for this post and just wanted to share a couple of them with you here:

Sleep sacks are the only things my son wants to sleep in. He wakes up happy and warm (not too warm, though) – I love them!

Wow, I have never heard of these particular sleep sacks. Thanks for the giveaway! I’m due next month and would love to own this.

I love that you’re donating to First Candle!!

Wow, I am shocked at the stats of SIDS and am happy to see people are taking the time to make more people aware of this. I think the sleep bag looks great, I can’t wait for my little man to try it out!

I’ve just shared this post on my blog. I hope it gets the information out to more people and saves lives.

There were almost 100 entries for the giveaway, so we’ve decided to round up and send a $100 donation to First Candle- a national nonprofit health organization to advance infant health and survival.

There were a couple of questions in the comments about using baby sleep bags that we would like to take a moment to answer here:

Q: How do I keep my baby from hurting himself when he tries to stand up and walk in his baby sleep bag?
A: Depending on how big your baby or toddler is, he might need to move up to a bigger size to allow for the ability to move about better. On the Baby Sleep Bag’s website, they mention that some toddlers become very adept at walking and even running in their sleep sacks.

Q: What should a baby wear under their baby sleep bag while sleeping?
A: Dress your baby in one or more layers of natural fiber sleepwear according to the season for their comfort. The Baby Sleep Bag website FAQ recommends not using baby pajamas made from polyester fabric as it does not release heat or moisture very well.

Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag
And last but not least, the winner of the Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag is Chantel who has been notified and chose the French Navy Baby Sleep Bag. Congratulations, Chantel and many thanks to everyone who left a comment or entered to the giveaway and helped support our efforts to promote SIDS Awareness!


In addition to our SIDS Awareness- Reducing the Risks post, here are our other posts for SIDS Awareness month: