SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is a tragic and still largely unexplained termination to a brand new life. Sometimes known as crib death, parents have long been warned about the condition, and often receive confusing information on how to prevent this terrible occurrence. Now, there is a series of new policies recommended in the United States -- advice that should stand as positive recommendations to parents everywhere in the world.
SIDS is defined by the sudden, unexplained (and unexplainable) death of an infant while sleeping. At-risk infants are typically between the ages of one month and one year. Incidence rates of SIDS have declined dramatically in the past several decades, largely due to parents being warned not to let babies sleep on their stomachs, or amongst heavy bedding or too many stuffed toys. While these measures have worked, there are still over 2,000 SIDS deaths in the United States every year, and approximately 200 in Canada. But one SIDS death, doctors say, is one is too many.
That's why the American Academy of Paediatrics has prepared a new list of recommendations, based on a body of recent research. The more important points are:
o Infants should be given pacifiers while they sleep
o Infants should not sleep in their parent's bed
o Parents should keep the crib in their room (this also facilitates nursing.)
o Babies should not sleep on their sides -- they should sleep exclusively on their backs.
These measures are designed to keep infants prone to SIDS from sleeping too heavily, and to facilitate breastfeeding without keeping the baby in bed with a parent or parents.
Breastfeeding advocates say that pacifiers inhibit the breastfeeding process, but the Academy suggests that nursing mothers introduce the pacifier after the baby is one month old. This way, breastfeeding is established, and the pacifier does not act as an inhibitor. Evidence suggests that babies with pacifiers do not slumber as heavily -- a common factor in infants at risk from SIDS. It should be noted that the academy does not recommend coating pacifiers in sweet substances. Also, they do not advocate reinserting the pacifier if it falls out of the mouth while the baby is sleeping.
The academy, a long-time supporter of breastfeeding, has also responding to advocates recommendations that a baby share the bed with his or her mother throughout infancy by making the crib in the room recommendation. The risks of bed sharing, given that the infant sleeps so deeply in that situation, outweigh the benefits. By keeping the crib in close proximity to the mother, night nursing is less of an issue.
Parenting an infant, especially for the first time, can be a bewildering and overwhelming period. SIDS, although seemingly random, does have cause factors and can be prevented. By being attentive to an infant's sleep patterns and communicating them to the baby's paediatrician, these new recommendations can effectively be put into practice. SIDS deaths have halved since 1992. Doctors are hopeful that they can all but disappear in the coming decade.