A newborn at home is a joyous time, but also one rife with concerns for new parents eager to protect their fragile new life. In many cases, education is tantamount to preparedness, and simply knowing best practices can help parents keep little ones safe.
Sudden infant death syndrome is a fear that many new parents contend with when establishing a sleeping environment for their baby. Often abbreviated as SIDS, the term refers to any unexplained passing of a child under one year old. The condition isn't common, and for many years, the factors surrounding SIDS puzzled scientists and pediatricians. Research has now shown that baby's sleep environment and parental lifestyle factors can play a role in creating -- and reducing -- the risk of SIDS.
This October marked SIDS Awareness Month, a yearly public health campaign educating new parents about proper infant sleep safety and lifestyle factors that can contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- The safest place for baby to sleep is on their back in a crib, bassinet, or Moses basket, without blankets, pillows, or positioning devices, and in the same room as parents.
- If mom is able to breastfeed baby, SIDS risk is cut significantly. Nursing your baby for at least two months reduces their risk of SIDS by 50%.
- Quit smoking as soon as possible -- pre-pregnancy is best. Mothers who smoke 1-9 daily cigarettes during pregnancy increase their baby's risk of SIDS by four times. Being around cigarette smoke in the home or car is also a risk factor, as is co-sleeping with a parent who is a smoker.
- If you choose to share an adult bed with baby, they must sleep on a clear, flat space without pillows, sheets, or blankets near them, and they cannot sleep between two adults. Co-sleeping should only take place with a parent, and should never happen if a parent smokes or has consumed alcohol or drugs. Co-sleeping is extremely dangerous on a couch or arm chair, where risk of SIDS rises by 50 times due to suffocation risk.
To learn more about safe infant sleep and the statistics surrounding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, visit the CDC's online overview.