Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a frightening fear for most mothers. SIDS is often referred to as crib death, and is the sudden death of an infant who stops breathing. It is rare, affecting less than 2 in 1000 infants in the US, but the fear of it plagues all new mothers.
Who needs to be worried?
SIDS was once thought of as random, striking healthy babies, which made it all the more frightening. But, in reality, there are some things that can indicate that a baby is at a higher risk for SIDS. The first is any baby that has previously had an episode where he has turned blue or had to have breathing revived. Premature or low birthweight babies are more susceptible. In addition, mothers who have had poor prenatal care or smoked during pregnancy are more likely to have a child with SIDS. Children with diagnosed heart or lung conditions are also at risk, and boys are more susceptible than girls.
So, what do I do?
First and foremost, take care of yourself during pregnancy and don’t smoke. Have regular prenatal doctor’s visits, and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Secondly, put your newborn to sleep on his back, or his side. There does seem to be a connection between SIDS and babies who sleep on their stomachs, particularly if they sleep on a soft mattress. Don’t put unnecessary items, even blankets in the crib with the baby, and don’t let him get overheated. Learn infant CPR – so you are prepared in the event you need to resuscitate your child.
What if my baby has had an episode?
If your child has an episode – stops breathing or turns blue, notify your doctor immediately, even though you were able to revive him. Your doctor will want to run tests, and, if he fears that the baby is likely to have another episode (though 95% do not) he might suggest a monitor for the baby. These monitors will alert you in the event the baby stops breathing, but are only used in high risk situations. The monitors are quite cumbersome, and tend to have lots of false alarms, making Moms even crazier.
When Can I Stop Worrying?
The threat of SIDS is over once your child reaches his first birthday, and declines dramatically once he is six months old. In fact, most SIDS deaths happen between the ages of two and four months. Take some precautions, but unless your baby has an elevated risk, remember that SIDS is actually rare, and is not something to obsess over.