Explaining SIDS

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on September 05, 2007


IN 1993, OUR SON JASON DIED, just shy of his six month birthday, of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is a disease whose presenting symptom is death. There are no warning signs. We put a healthy baby to bed and he was dead in the morning. There are many identifiable risk reduction strategies for SIDS and it is important that all caregivers be aware of them. (SIDS is when a baby dies unexpectedly while sleeping and no cause can be identified.)

In 1993, I went on a cross-country campaign called ‘Back to Sleep’. It reminds all caregivers that sleep position is critical in reducing the risk of SIDS. Babies should be placed on their back when going to sleep in an empty crib that meets regulations for safety. It is critical that your child have a safe sleep environment. Although it does not eliminate the risk of SIDS, it certainly has proven to decrease the incidence. It is also important not to overheat your baby, avoid all exposure to any kind of smoke, including second-hand smoke, and, if possible, breastfeed your infant. It is also important to offer babies tummy time when they are awake and can be supervised.

UNSAFE SLEEPING CONDITIONS SPIKE INFANT DEATH RATE
A significant rise in preventable infant deaths from unsafe sleeping conditions, such as overcrowded cribs and sharing beds with siblings or parents, has health professionals warning parents to follow stricter guidelines for safer sleeping. According to a recent report from Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner, 21 children died from unsafe sleeping arrangements in 2005, a rise from 16 in 2004. Ontario’s Deputy Chief Coroner Dr. Jim Cairns warns that the only safe sleeping environment for a baby is in a crib with a properly fitted mattress. “No bumper pads, no toys, no blankets, no anything,” says Dr. Cairns. “A small baby blanket is okay, but must be tucked in.”

Dr. Cairns also warned parents against the popular trend of co-sleeping or sharing beds with young children because of the risk of rolling onto them as well as the danger of suffocation from the bedding.

Bed-sharing is particularily risky when nursing mothers bring their babies into bed and they fall asleep together. Babies can also fall off the bed or become trapped in the space between the mattress and the wall or the bed frame. Comforters or duvets can cover a baby’s head and cause overheating, putting the baby at an increased risk of SIDS.

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) says that creating a safe sleep environment for your baby reduces the risk of injuries and SIDS. The CPS says that the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib close to your bed.

SAFER SLEEPING
  • Put babies to sleep on their backs for the first year of life, NOT on their tummies or sides.
  • Put babies to sleep in a crib with a properly fitting mattress with a firm, flat surface. Waterbeds, air mattresses, pillows, couches or sofas are not safe since babies can turn on to their stomach and possibly suffocate.
  • Don’t put any pillows, bumper pads, quilts, comforters or stuffed toys in the crib except for one small blanket tucked in.
  • Don’t share your bed with your baby or child.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep alone on a couch, sofa or armchair. The baby is at risk for suffocation if trapped down the sides or in the cushions. PC

By Dr. Marla Shapiro| September 05, 2007

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