SIDS is one of the most puzzling dangers to a baby in his or her first year of life. In fact, the term is not a specific syndrome at all. It is an umbrella term that is used when a baby dies a sudden, unexplained death. It is also often called "crib death" because a lot of deaths occur in cribs. There are no known causes for SIDS. Only certain risk factors have been identified.
Over the years, through observation, medical practitioners have created guidelines to help parents reduce the risk of this tragedy1,2,3.
- Always put babies to sleep on their back - at night, for naps, every time!!! Ensure the other people taking care of your baby (besides you), also follow this rule.
- Use firm bedding and let the baby lie flat on it. Do not use soft objects like pillows, blankets etc.,
- Keep other soft objects like stuffed toys away from the baby when he goes to sleep
- Do not smoke around the baby
- Do not overdress your baby for sleep, thus causing overheating. Also keep the room temperature at a level comfortable to an adult
- Mothers must not smoke or be around smokers during their pregnancy
- Premature babies are at higher risk
- Babies with low birth weight are also at a higher risk
- Some studies have shown that breastfeeding can decrease the risk also
People claim that SIDS is a lesser risk for Indian parents because they often share their beds with their babies. This claim is not proved. In fact, some studies suggest that bed sharing increases risk to the baby. So even if you share a bed with your baby, follow the precautions above1.
1. "The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Diagnostic Coding Shifts, Controversies Regarding the Sleeping Environment, and New Variables to Consider in Reducing Risk", American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, November 2005
2. "Changing Concepts of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Implications for Infant Sleeping Environment and Sleep Position", American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, March 2000
3. "Safe Sleep for Your Baby: Ten Ways to Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)" Back to Sleep Campaign, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, USA