SIDS: Risk Factors and Preventative Measures

SIDS: Risk Factors and Preventative Measures

October 26, 2020

October marks SIDS Awareness MonthAs part of this, the Safe to Sleep campaign is launching safe sleep social media parties from October 26-29, 2020. They also have a #safesleepsnap challenge to create awareness about safe infant sleep environments.

The SIDS Awareness initiative is all about educating all families on how to prevent SIDS through creating a safe sleep environment for infants. Understanding more about SIDS is essential to prevent it, cope with loss, and know how to support affected families. Here are some essential things you need to know about SIDS this month.

What Is SIDS?

SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, is the sudden death of a baby under one year which remains unexplained after an investigation. These deaths most frequently occur during sleep. Sleep related deaths, including accidental strangulation or suffocation, affect approximately 3,500 babies each year across the United States. 

Doctors do not know what causes SIDS. Some clinicians theorize that SIDS is caused by a baby’s inability to arouse from sleep to regulate their breathing when it is disrupted. A baby’s sleep environment plays a big role in preventing sleep related deaths in infants. 

What Are the Risk Factors for SIDS?

Much is still unknown about SIDS and its causes. However, there are some identified risk factors that are linked to higher frequency of SIDS. 

  • Environmental factors
    • Secondhand exposure to smoke in their environment after birth
  • Maternal factors
    • Inadequate prenatal care
    • Smoking, drinking alcohol, or use of illicit drugs during pregnancy
  • Infant factors
    • Premature birth or a low birth weight
    • Age, as infants between 1-4 months old are the most at risk
    • Family history, such as past SIDS death of a sibling
  • Sleeping environment factors
    • Sleep positioning on the stomach or side
    • Sleeping on a very soft surface
    • Overheating during sleep
    • Sleeping with objects, such as blankets or toys

    What Are the Preventative Measures for SIDS?

    Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics have created recommendations to prevent SIDS. They include the following:

    • Regular prenatal visits and continued medical checkups for baby after birth.
    • Room share by placing baby’s crib near the parents’ bed for at least the first 6 months of life.
    • ABCs of safe sleep which are a pneumonic device to help remember 3 key recommendations: baby should sleep (A) Alone, on their (B) Back, and in a (C) Crib or other firm sleep surface.
    • Right temperature in the baby’s room to avoid overheating. Baby’s head should be uncovered, and they shouldn’t be sweating or hot to the touch.
    • Breastfeeding for those who are able and unless doctors have recommended otherwise.
    • Pacifier use when putting to sleep, without a string attached. 

    How to Support SIDS Reduction Efforts

    This month's events through the Safe to Sleep campaign are a great way to support awareness month. Their social media events have video discussions hosted by experts and a live chat for answering questions. These events run from October 26-29, 2020, and the recordings will be available to watch afterwards. Their public #safesleepsnap challenge is meant to encourage posting pictures of safe sleep environments.

    Unfortunately, many factors make following recommendations difficult for some families. Lack of education about SIDS can prevent parents from knowing about risk factors. Economic disparities can prevent expecting mothers from receiving sufficient prenatal care. Some may have less control over their environment, including the smoking habits of others. 

    Those who want to support education and prevention efforts can support organizations that work to reduce SIDS and sleep related deaths. If you want to honor a baby that has passed, you can consider making a donation in the child’s name to a SIDS organization. 

    Resources for SIDS Tragedies

    SIDS is a terrible tragedy for all families who have lost a baby. Families have many questions that are left unresolved about their infant’s death. Friends and family members of the affected family may struggle to know how to offer support and comfort to their loved ones. 

    The organization First Candle offers bereavement resources for families after experiencing a loss. For additional information and resources, go to the Safe to Sleep campaign, also available in Spanish as Seguro al dormir

    Creating a safe sleeping environment is the best known way to prevent SIDS and sleep related deaths. However, there is still a lot unknown about many of the factors involved. It’s important to remember that many families experience SIDS tragedies for a variety of reasons. We can offer all support and love to those who have experienced a loss from SIDS. 

    At Baby Merlin, we support all efforts to educate about safe sleep practices and prevent SIDS related deaths. Our Magic Sleepsuit is designed to be used with these safe sleep precautions in mind.