Widespread Awareness on Safe Sleeping Habits Lowers Rate of SIDS

First Posted: Oct 16, 2014 05:47 AM EDT

Increased awareness on safe sleeping habits has dramatically lowered the rate of babies dying each year from sudden infant death syndrome, a new study reveals. However, babies still die from sudden, unknown causes.

 It is a well-known fact that it is best for infants to sleep on their backs and not on the sides or bellies. The latest study, led by researchers at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program, reveals that one of the biggest factors in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the baby's sleeping environment during the first year of life.

SIDS is explained as the unexpected, sudden death of a child under the age of 1. This usually occurs during sleep. In the year 2010, more than 2000 babies died of SIDS. It is also called as cot death or crib death. Even though the cause of SIDS remains unknown, the risk can be reduced.

"It's confusing for parents because in the media you see these cribs that look all cute and soft and comfortable, when all you really need is a mattress with a tight-fitting sheet," said Leigh Brown, a health educator involved with the program.

It is, however, assumed that items like crib bumpers, extra bedding, stuffed animals and loose sheets and blankets lead to suffocation of infants who aren't able to roll or get themselves out of such uncomfortable and dangerous situations. Most often people have a misconception that babies are freezing and wrap them to keep them warm. But it is this overheating that is a major risk factor.

The researchers assume that when using a blanket, tuck it tightly along the sides as well as bottom of the crib and the not higher than the infant's armpit and avoid getting it closer to the face. It's best if parents avoid buying items such as sleep positioners that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS or provide a safe sleeping environment, as they fail to do so.

Also parents should not worry when the infant rolls from back to side or belly during sleep. If the infant rolls on themselves, it shows they are able to avoid suffocation.

Most often SIDS occurs when parents share beds with infants. If the parent wants the baby close to them, it's best to practice room sharing and not bed sharing. Placing the baby in a separate crib or cradle near the bed is safe.

"Mothers who tend to drift off to sleep while breastfeeding their babies run the risk of having their babies wedge into the crevice of their arm and suffocate. Exposure to secondhand smoke on an adult's clothing or in the home environment can also increase the chances of a SIDS death," according to researchers.

The finding was documented in JAMA Psychiatry.

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