Newborns spend a lot of their days (and, for your sake, hopefully nights) sleeping. Because they easily spend more than half of their time asleep, it is crucial that this activity is done safely. The safest way to have your newborn sleep is on his back. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that newborns who sleep on their stomachs have a significantly higher risk of SIDS than those who sleep on their backs.
After the AAP made this recommendation public, the rate of SIDS dropped by 50 percent. However, SIDS remains the No. 1 cause of death in young infants, so the continued emphasis of the importance of the Back to Sleep campaign cannot be underestimated.
Unfortunately, SIDS is not completely preventable, and there are babies who succumb to SIDS every year, despite no definable risk factors.
Carter, 6 days, Mount Olivet
However, there are certainly factors that can both increase as well as decrease your baby's risk of SIDS.
Risk factors for SIDS include:
- Smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs during pregnancy.
- Poor (or no) prenatal care
- Prematurity or low birth weight (this is, for the most part, unavoidable, although tobacco use, alcohol consumption, drug use and poor prenatal care are associated with premature birth and low birth weight)
- Tobacco exposure after birth
- Overheating from too much sleepwear or bedding
- Stomach sleeping
To reduce SIDS risk, follow these basic sleep routines and make sure anyone who cares for your child follows them, as well, as one in five SIDS deaths occurs while someone other than a parent is caring for an infant.
1. Always place your baby on his back when putting him to sleep, even if he is still awake. Tummy time is great, but only under direct adult supervision, and not when your baby is going off to sleep.
2. Do not place your baby on his side, as he is more likely to roll on to his stomach than his back.
3. Do not cover his head with a blanket, and do not over-bundle him. A snug wrap or a sleep sack is fine
4. Make sure that your baby's head and neck are comfortably open and in the upright position.
5. If you use a wrap or a swaddle, make sure that your baby's arms are comfortably at his sides, and well secured.
6. If you use a sleep sack, make sure that it is the proper size for your baby.
7. Make sure that your baby has a firm mattress (crib or bassinet) and a well-fitted sheet.
8. Do not place your baby on a chair, sofa, waterbed or adult bed to sleep
9. Remove toys, pillows, cozy blankets and stuffed animals from the sleeping area before putting your baby to sleep.
- - -
Dr. Nina Shapiro is the director of pediatric ear, nose and throat at the Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. She is the author of "Take A Deep Breath: Clear the Air for the Health of Your Child" and editor of the "Handbook of Pediatric Otolaryngology: A Practical Guide for the Evaluation and Management of Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders in Children."