Protecting infants from SIDS

Published 10:25 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

Did you know that three infants die in Ohio each week in sleep-related deaths? According to the 2014 Ohio Child Fatality Review, sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of death for infants from 1-month to 1-year of age.

One cause may be sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the sudden unexplained death of an infant under the age of 1 year old that remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and a review of the clinical history.

Another cause of sleep-related deaths is unintentional suffocation, in which soft bedding, a pillow, waterbed mattress cover, stuffed animal or another item covers the mouth and nose of the infant. Accidental suffocation can occur when if person rolls over on the baby while sleeping or if the baby gets wedged between two objects. Accidental strangulation can happen if the baby’s head and neck get caught between crib railings.

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Early and regular prenatal care, good nutrition, and not using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can help reduce the risk for SIDS. Moms shouldn’t smoke during pregnancy and/or allow anyone to smoke around the infant. It is estimated that one-third of SIDS deaths would be prevented if maternal smoking during pregnancy were eliminated.

Breastfeeding can reduce a baby’s risk of SIDS by 50 percent. Breast milk contains maternal antibodies and other nutrients that promote a healthy immune system. Although researchers do not know how it works, many studies have shown that the use of pacifiers during naptime and bedtime is protective against SIDS.

Childhood immunizations are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and they play an important part in reducing the risk of SIDS.

Avoid overheating an infant during naptime or bedtime. In cold weather, parents and caregivers often place extra blankets or clothes on infants, to keep them warm. Over bundling may cause infants to overheat, increasing their risk for SIDS, according to the National Institutes of Health.

You can further protect your baby from a sleep-related death by following the ABCs recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A = Alone. Risks are greater if infants share a bed or other sleep surface with another person. B = Back. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are much more likely to die than babies who sleep on their backs.

Infants need tummy time to play but, unless medically contraindicated, they should always be on their backs to sleep. C = Crib. Share a room with your infant, but don’t share a sleep surface. Cribs should have a firm mattress. Don’t use pillows, quilts, loose blankets, or other soft bedding. Don’t place stuffed animals in the infant’s crib.

Do you need a crib? Through a grant made possible by Child and Family Health Services, Lawrence County Health Department has partnered with Cribs for Kids to provide a Pack ‘n Play for infants who don’t otherwise have a safe place to sleep.

Parents or guardians who meet WIC income guidelines are eligible. For more information, or to apply for a crib, please call Debbie Fisher, RN, at Lawrence County Health Department at 532-3962.


Debbie Fisher is a registered nurse and the health educator of the Lawrence County Health Department. She can be reached at 740-532-3962.