It’s hard to put a finger on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s when an otherwise healthy and normal baby unexpectedly dies during sleep. Experts are still quite unsure on why this happens.
There are guidelines, however, agreed upon by various medical and health groups on how parents can prevent SIDS. One that has proven highly effective is by putting baby to sleep on his back, never on the tummy.
“Babies who sleep on their tummies inhale less oxygen and exhale less carbon dioxide because their faces are so close to the bedding. It is also more difficult for them to move in that position. If they get buried under a blanket or a pillow, they cannot easily kick it off and their cries might get muffled,” explains Anna Lopez-Gabriel, M.D., head of the department of Pediatrics at Makati Medical Center and owner of MommyDepotOnline.
Another way to reduce the risk of SIDS is by making sure a baby’s sleeping area is empty of anything other than his mattress; no toys, soft bedding, crib bumpers, etc. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a wearable blanket instead of loose blankets to keep a baby warm.
Now, a recent doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has found that the risk of SIDS can also be reduced by letting baby sleep in a separate bed from mom and dad.
“The results show that more lives could potentially be saved if fewer babies slept on their stomachs or were placed on their sides, if fewer mothers smoked during pregnancy and if infants slept in their own beds in their parents' bedroom during the first three months,” says author of the study Per Möllborg, a Child Health Medical Officer.
Möllborg analyzed four other studies for his research and found that at 6 months old, one out of five children slept with their parents. Co-sleeping was more common if the child was breastfed, had sleeping troubles, woke often in the night and if the mother was a single parent. It was less common in babies who used pacifiers.
He also found that babies were likely to be put to sleep on their stomach if the mother was unemployed, smoked during pregnancy, if the child was irritable, shared a room with a brother or sister, or did not use a pacifier.
Möllborg also noted that, compared to before, fewer babies were falling prey to SIDS, in part due to the public’s awareness of letting babies sleep on their tummies. He adds that smoking during pregnancy has now become a bigger risk factor.
This is mostly good news for us. It means that awareness efforts on SIDS have been effective. Now, it’s time to inform more women--pregnant or planning to be--of the dangers of smoking. It’s not just SIDS either, smoking during pregnancy leads to an increased risk of a miscarriage or stillbirth, premature birth or low birth weight for the baby, birth defects, and the baby developing respiratory problems.
Source: February 9, 2016. "Infants should sleep in their own beds to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome" (sahlgrenska.gu.se) May 30, 2014. "Smoking During Pregnancy" (webmd.com)