When is SIDS no longer a risk to my baby?
First, the definition of SIDS: the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history. (Willinger et al, 1991)
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, occurs most frequently between the second and fourth month of age. While risks decline after the sixth month, your child is still within the danger zone up until his first birthday, according the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Researchers have not been able to pinpoint one specific factor that causes SIDS, but experts agree that a combination of factors are probably to blame. These likely include genetic factors, a congenital malformation in the brain, and environmental factors.
SIDS is not caused by vomiting or vaccines. It does occur more frequently in boys than girls and in African Americans and Navajos more than other races.
There are some practices that you can implement to reduce the risks of SIDS. First Candle, formerly the National SIDS Foundation, recommends the following:
- Place infants to sleep on their backs, even though they may sleep more soundly on their stomachs. Stomach- and side-sleeping raises risks.
- Place infants to sleep in a baby bed with a firm mattress. There should be nothing in the bed but the baby—no covers, no pillows, no bumper pads, no positioning devices, and no toys. Soft mattresses and heavy covering are associated with the risk for SIDS.
- Keep your baby's crib in your room until your infant is at least 6 months of age. Studies clearly show that infants are safest when their beds are close to their mothers.
- Do not place your baby to sleep in an adult bed. Typical adult beds are not safe for babies. Do not fall asleep with your baby on a couch or in a chair.
- Do not over-clothe your infant while she sleeps. You want to dress your baby just well enough to keep her warm without having to use a cover. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you. Overheating an infant may increase the risk for SIDS.
- Avoid exposing your child to tobacco smoke. Don't have your infant in the same house or car with someone who is smoking. The greater the exposure to tobacco smoke, the greater the risk of SIDS.
- If possible, breastfeed your baby. The consumption of breast milk decreases the occurrence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, and studies show that breastfed babies have a lower SIDS rate than formula-fed babies.
- Avoid exposing the infant to people with respiratory infections. Avoid crowds. Carefully clean anything that comes in contact with the baby. Have people wash their hands before holding or playing with your baby. SIDS often occurs in association with relatively minor respiratory (mild cold) and gastrointestinal infections (vomiting and diarrhea).
- Offer your baby a pacifier.