Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy infant under age 1, usually during sleep.
SIDS is 1 category under the umbrella term Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines as the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than 1 year old in which the cause wasn't obvious before investigation.
Sudden unexpected infant deaths include SIDS, accidental suffocation during sleep and other deaths from unknown causes. About 3,500 babies are lost to SUIDS each year, the CDC reports, though the rate has dropped since the 1990s.
Research has found that SIDS occurs more frequently when a combination of risk factors is involved. You can help reduce the risk of SIDS by taking these precautions:
- ALWAYS put your baby down to sleep on his or her back for the first year of life. Doing so has been shown to significantly reduce SIDS risk. Once your little one is older and can roll over onto his or her stomach (typically around 4-6 months of age), you do not need to reposition your baby at night. The most important factor in reducing SIDS risk is initially placing a baby down to sleep on his or her back.
- Avoid having your infant share a bed with you. Research shows that babies who sleep on couches and in adult beds may be at risk for suffocation. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not having your baby sleep in your bed. If you wish to keep your baby in your room with you, consider purchasing a specially designed sidecar crib that attaches to your bed so that your baby remains safely within arm's reach.
- Make sure that your baby sleeps on a firm mattress or other firm surface. Don't use fluffy blankets, comforters, pillows or other soft materials under your baby. Do not allow your baby to sleep on any surface not designed for infants-including sofas, which have been linked to a greater risk of SIDS. Keep the room temperature warm, but not too warm. (If it feels comfortable to you, it's OK.) New research suggests that using a fan near a sleeping baby to circulate the air may also protect against SIDS.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby-that goes for e-cigarettes, too.
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration both warn against using sleep positioners. Manufacturers claim these products reduce the risk of SIDS, but the FDA says there is no scientific evidence backing this claim and, in fact, the CPSC has documented reports of numerous suffocations and deaths caused by positioners.
Unfortunately, many media images of sleeping babies still show unsafe practices in infant sleep environments. These photos send the wrong message about safe newborn sleep positions.
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