What is SIDS?
SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome, as the name suggests is the unfortunate demise of an infant without any plausible explanation. SIDS is commonly known as cot death because many of the incidents occur while the baby is asleep. However, that is not the only time. SIDS isn't related to any one disease or illness, but is referred to as the cause of death when there is no other medical explanation supporting the death of an infant. SIDS can occur between the ages of 1 month and 1 year. The incidence of cot death in India is far lower as compared to some other developed countries, where it is said to be the leading cause of death among babies.
Why does SIDS occur?
The exact cause of SIDS is unknown. However, according to a research recently released by Boston Children's Hospital (in Boston, Massachusetts), SIDS is more likely to occur if an infant has an underlying health condition, such as immature organ development or breathing and arousal (waking up) functions. Another stress factor for little infants can be sleeping on their stomach or sleeping on soft bedding that easily sinks in with their weight. According to research recently published in the British Medical Journal, 88% of cot deaths can be avoided by simply steering clear of co-sleeping with the infant. A study published by the American Medical association in 2010 also found that infants who died from SIDS had lower levels of serotonin in the brainstem, the part responsible for regulating breathing, heart rate and blood pressure during sleep.
Are some infants at a higher risk for SIDS?
- According to researchers, factors that can put a baby at a higher risk for SIDS include:
- Low birth weight or a premature birth
- The parent being under the age of 20 while giving birth (In India, where the incidence of child marriages is high, those who have babies at a young age are putting them at risk)
- Having pregnancies too close together
- Any potential fatal incident in which the infant is involved
- Boys, in general, are at a higher risk than girls
- Stomach sleeping for a baby younger than 6 months
How can I prevent SIDS from occurring?
- It is hard to predict where SIDS will occur or not, but there are a few preventive measures that parents can take to reduce the risk:
- Make your baby sleep on him back. Not sideways and definitely not on his stomach. This simple step can reduce the chances by 50%.
- Avoid co-sleeping. Ensure your baby is sleeping in a cot in the parents/caretaker's room, but not in the same bed.
- Choose a flat, firm mattress for your child's cot. Also avoid putting too many objects in the cot or crib itself. You can use sheet clips to ensure the sheets stay firmly in place.
- Avoid using heavy quilts to cover your child during sleep time. Instead dress your child to keep him warm or put him in a sleeping bag for extra cover. However, make sure you aren't overheating him with too many layers.
- Don't use any pillows or head supports while he sleeps. Also avoid using substitutes such as knotted towels or dupattas to position your child's head.
- Ensure your child is getting the requisite care before and after birth. Which means keeping a check on your diet, and avoiding habits that can put him at risk such as smoking, consuming alcohol or any other drug substance.
- Breastfeeding has been known to reduce the risk of SIDS among infants. You can also use a pacifier during sleep time as this can help reduce the risk.