If you are a soon-to-be parent, or the new parent of an infant, the word SIDS sends prickles of dread down your spine. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants younger than 12 months-old. Typical SIDS cases occur in babies who are sleeping. Parents will check on the baby during the night, or a long nap, to find their baby is no longer breathing. A full autopsy report is not able to indicate a cause of death.

This can be extremely difficult to process in an era where the medical professionals seem to have an answer and solution for seemingly everything. When a family is effected by SIDS, their lives are forever changed. The good news is that with increasing research, education, and awareness, cases of SIDS have decreased by more than 50% since 1980.

The more you can learn about what we know about SIDS, as well as methods and practices for avoiding it, the safer your baby will be. Make sure you share what you learn with anyone who will take care of your child throughout his/her first year of life. SIDS rates are increased for mothers who:

1.             Are teenagers

2.             Smoke, drink, or take drugs both during and after pregnancy

3.             Have babies less than one year apart

9 Important Things You Should Know to Prevent SIDS

•    Pre-natal care. Establish a relationship with an OB/GYN and/or Midwife immediately after discovering you are pregnant. The more you do to facilitate healthy fetal development, the stronger your newborn baby will be. Did you know premature infants are more prone to SIDS than babies who are carried full-term? Ask your pre-natal care provider for careful instructions regarding yourdiet, lifestyle, and supplements to help carry your baby full-term.

•    Breastfeeding is best. Do all you can to breastfeed your baby. Breastfed babies have lower incidences of SIDS than formula-fed babies and breastfeeding lowers babies’ incidences of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. We also know that breast milk is digested faster than formula, which prevents babies from sleeping as deeply in between feedings. This may help to keep the respiratory system stimulated.

•    Back sleeping. Always place your baby to bed on her back. SIDS rates are increased for tummy- and side-sleeping babies.

•    No bedding is safe bedding. Until your baby reaches his/her first birthday, he/she should sleep on a firm mattress, free of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, etc. If you’re concerned about the baby staying warm, you can purchase sleep sacs of varying thicknesses that will provide adequate warmth without potentially blocking airways.

•    Avoid over-clothing. After the first few weeks, healthy babies are able to regulate their body temperature. Avoid over-clothing the baby by keeping room temperatures comfortable and using the same number of layers as you are comfortable wearing in the room.

•    No smoking, period. Do not let anyone smoke around your baby. Exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of SIDS.

•    Report respiratory/choking issues. If your baby seems to suffer from respiratory problems, stops breathing, turns blue, or experiences unusual bouts of choking or gagging, report it to your pediatrician immediately.

•    Offer baby a pacifier. Some studies have shown a link between pacifier use and lower rates of SIDS. That being said, make sure your baby is eating regularly to avoid missing out on crucial calories due to the pacifier’s oral gratification benefits.

•    Share the knowledge. Make sure you provide this list to daycare providers, family, and/or friends who will take care of your baby during the first year.

Interested in doing more to prevent SIDS? Join Overlake OB/GYN in the Strollin’ to Fight SIDS walk, on June 15, 2013. We’d love to see you there.