What is SIDS ? It stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or as it’s also known, crib death.
It is the unexpected and sudden death of a seemingly healthy baby under one year of age. These deaths occur while the infant is asleep and are not explained by medical science. I include this page on my website for to reasons. One – I think every mother on the planet worries about SIDS and pokes and checks on her baby to make sure they are breathing. And two – because research has shown that there is a higher incidence of SIDS for twins, triplets and other multiples. The thinking is that because these babies are more likely to be smaller and of lower birthweight – they are automatically put at a higher risk. Personally I worried about it less with my twins because they slept together – one was always moving or crying and I felt no one would forget to breathe with all that going on.
There is no definitive cause – only risk factors and things we can try to do to reduce the risks. These kinds of deaths are absolutely devastating to a family. There is no way to completely prevent SIDS but there are some things that you can do to make your babies sleep safer and help you worry less.
Boys are at a higher risk – about 60% of deaths are boys and 40% are girls. It’s not know for sure why but there is speculation that because boys breathe faster than girls, IF there was a higher level of toxin or carbon dioxide in the air, it would fill their lungs faster than girls.
Infants who have had a past life threatening event such as sleep apneas or stopping breathing and requiring CPR are at a higher risk of succumbing to SIDS.
Babies that are born with a low birth weight – under 7 pounds 4 oz – some studies say that the highest risk is for babies born at less than 3.5 pounds.
There is some evidence that babies who are born after a sibling who was lost to Crib Death may be at a higher risk. Some theories are linking the accumulation of toxic gases found in crib mattresses and again in used crib mattresses to this.
While SIDS affects all races and economic levels, there is a link to poverty that is not explained medically speaking but may contribute to the theory of re-using older mattresses.
Babies who are born to mothers under the age of 20 also have a higher risk. Again – this is just in the statistics.
Another risk factor is babies being born too close together – less than 12 months since the preceding pregnancy.
Poor or no prenatal care can cause the baby to be more vulnerable to SIDS.
Low APGAR scores after birth ( APGAR stands for appearance, pulse, grimace,activity, respiration)This score is taken twice after birth at one and five minutes and the baby receives a score of 0, 1 or 2 for each aspect.
Baby’s age is another risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as it occurs most frequently in infants who are two months to four months of age – nearly 90% of the babies who die are under 6 months old.
Back to Sleep – the Safest Sleep Position
The latest research shows that putting your baby to sleep on their back on a firm, flat surface is the safest sleeping position. If your baby(s) have a medical condition then be sure to talk to your doctor about which sleep position.
Always be sure to give your babies lots of ‘tummy time’ when they are awake and this helps them to develop strong back and neck muscles, as well as the chance to view the world from another angle. Sometimes mom’s get a little paranoid and never put their baby’s on their tummy’s – this can result in the development of flat spots on their heads.
Once your babies start being able to roll over on their own, you can stop worrying as much ( you probably won’t ever stop worrying completely !)but once they start flipping themselves over, it means they have the strength to hold up their heads away from any bedding.
You’ll want to make sure that your babies sleep on a fairly firm surface – make sure the crib sheet is fitted tightly and that there are no stuffed animals, pillows or fluffy quilts in the baby’s crib. These are all precautions to make sure there is adequate air flow around the baby’s face. Remove any plastic wrappings from the mattress if there is any to help reduce the risk of SIDS
Co-Sleeping or the Family Bed
Sharing the family bed is a very common practice for many families, especially those with nursing mothers. This is a personal preference of course. Some research suggests this lowers the risk of SIDS, and some say it increases it. My babies all slept with me. If you are having your babies sleep with you, make sure there are no pillows or heavy blankets for them to get lost under – basically take precautions. We used a co-sleeper for the twins which was like a pack and play that attached directly and tightly to the side of our bed which allowed me to just reach over for a baby when needed and then slide them back in. It was called the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. It made my husband less worried about rolling over on a baby.
On that note, make sure that no one who sleeps with your babies has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs as they may sleep too soundly and not be able to respond to the babies if needed. Some studies have shown that the risk of SIDS increases if the baby sleeps with someone who smokes cigarettes.
Create a Drug and Smoke Free Environment for your Babies
Avoid using or being around any drugs such as alcohol, crack, marijuana, cocaine and heroin if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant or if you are nursing your babies. NO ONE should be allowed to smoke anything near your babies – both for their health and yours, and to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Keep your baby warm – NOT hot when dressing them for sleep.
More babies die of SIDS during the winter months. Of course you want your little ones to be warm , but don’t bundle them up so that they will overheat! You can easily check this by placing your hand on the back of their neck. See if they are sweating – if they are, remove some clothing. Realize that your babies feel what you do – if you are not feeling cold in the room, then don’t bundle them up. Many parents with good intentions will bundle their babies in several layers of blankets and clothing because they are afraid of their babies being too cold during the winter nights.
We used little zip up snuggle pouches for our twins. They were the BEST thing – wearable little blankets that prevented the babies from kicking them off, left their arms and hands free, and zipped from the neck downwards for easy changing and so the bottom of the zipper didn’t catch under their chins. This also prevented the use of loose blankets that might otherwise end up over their faces during the night. We felt strongly that they helped to reduce the SIDS risk.
Breastfeeding your Babies
If you can breastfeed your babies do so ! It has many healthy benefits and may give them some protection against Crib Death especially if your babies were born prematurely or had a low birth weight. Prematurity and low birth weight are considered to be risk factors for SIDS. More on breastfeeding your twins here.