By: Lawrence E. Jones
Not scientifically reviewed by Dr. Eeks
SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and it’s one of the biggest concerns for parents around the world. Newborn babies may face a variety of different health problems that you should be worried about. They are fresh out of the womb, meaning their bodies are yet to develop. This means their immune systems are particularly weak, which is why something as simple as a common cold can be a major health problem for a baby.
Nevertheless, SIDS is significantly worse than this. It’s one of the main causes of death in infants, and it can happen to any baby, regardless of how healthy they are. Effectively, it is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby that’s younger than 1 year old. Typically, SIDS will happen when a baby is sleeping – it’s rare that a baby will die from this when awake and aware. Research into this topic has developed dramatically over the decades, meaning that fewer babies now die from this than ever before. However, it is still something that all parents should be concerned about.
Is it possible to prevent SIDS?
Naturally, all parents will be looking for a way to prevent this from happening. Nobody wants to go to bed at night and wake up to this terrible news. Thanks to years of scientific research, it has been discovered that you can greatly reduce the chances of sudden infant death syndrome by sleeping your baby on their backs.
How is this the case?
Essentially, research suggests that babies sleeping on their stomachs will put themselves at greater risks of sleeping problems. Primarily, it is believed that they struggle to breathe properly. Being stomach down on a crib might block the airway and make it harder for a baby to breathe. Furthermore, the baby is more likely to breathe in stale air when on their front. What does this mean? Well, as we all know, part of the breathing process means we take in oxygen and breathe out CO2. Stale air is when you rebreathe the air you just breathed out. In essence, you are breathing in more CO2 than oxygen. This can happen to babies when they sleep on their front, causing an increase in CO2 in their bodies and a decrease in oxygen. Effectively, it can make the baby suffocate, leading to death.
Therefore, when a baby sleeps on their back, they reduce the risk of breathing in stale air or blocking their airways. As such, all parents should ensure that their babies sleep on their back at all times. This means that side sleeping is not a good idea either. Why? Because a baby can very easily roll from their side onto their stomach, creating all the problems listed above.
How do you keep a baby on his/her back?
You know that your baby should sleep on its back, but how do you ensure that they remain in this position? For starters, you lay them to sleep on their back. From here, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your baby stays on its back and isn’t inclined to roll over.
The first, and the most effective, idea is to swaddle your baby. What is swaddling? Essentially, it is where you wrap your baby up tightly in a little blanket, almost creating a small cocoon for them. They can’t wriggle around and move their arms or legs, making them feel all wrapped up and secure. As such, it is harder for them to roll over onto their stomach while they sleep. However, it is important to know when you should stop swaddling your baby. In this article: When To Stop Swaddling Your Baby: 6 Signs To Watch For, you will find a number of reasons that mean you should stop swaddling as it might be doing your baby more harm than good. As a general rule, most parents should stop swaddling if their baby knows how to roll over from back to front and front to back. If your baby can do this, they are unlikely to stay sleeping on their front as they can rollover.
The second thing you can do is monitor your baby. Video baby monitors are essential as you can see what your little one is doing. You’re able to notice if they have rolled onto their stomach, letting you go to their crib and roll them back over. The good news is that babies are very good at learning things quickly. If you constantly put them to sleep on their back, they associate this position with sleepy time. So, they should start to naturally sleep in this position after a few weeks/months.
Are certain babies more likely to die from SIDS than others?
Sadly, yes, some babies are more at risk than others. Some of the risk factors you have no control over – like a family history of SIDS, the sex of your baby (boys are more at risk), or the race (white infants are less at risk than others).
However, there are many other risk factors you definitely can control to reduce the chances of your baby dying from SIDS:
- Smoking – babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely to die from SIDS, as are babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.
- Drugs and alcohol – if the baby’s mother drinks alcohol or uses drugs while pregnant, there is a significantly increased risk of death via SIDS.
The bottom line is that SIDS is a serious problem that all parents should be aware of. If you are planning to have a baby, you need to ensure you minimize the risk factors associated with this problem. Don’t drink, smoke, or take drugs throughout your pregnancy. When your baby is born, continue to avoid smoking as it can save their life. Ensure your baby sleeps on its back until it is able to start turning over onto its back by itself. SIDS is a massive problem because so much is still unknown about it, and it is very unpredictable. However, you can reduce the chances of your baby succumbing to this tragic thing.