So I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on SIDS and I have come up with some interesting information. By now, most new parents (and I guess parents in general) are aware of the precautions when it comes to keeping your baby safe. Depending on who you are talking to, the following precautions are advised:
- Do not co-sleep, but keep the baby in the room with you
- Do not use bumpers, soft blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals in the crib or cradle
- Use a fan to keep the room well ventilated
- Do not dress the baby too warmly
- Make sure the room is kept at an even temperature
- Use a pacifier
- Place the baby on his back when he is sleeping
Now that we know the precautions, what do they mean, exactly, and what do they really have to do with SIDS? Let’s break them down.
To begin with, nobody knows what SIDS is. While there are various theories out there, we’re still not sure what the hell it is. In fact, calling a baby’s death SIDS is basically saying that everything else has been ruled out and therefore they just don’t know. With that in mind, it makes the precautions even more curious.
You might have read, too, that the statistics of SIDS cases went down for awhile when the whole “Back to Sleep” campaign started but are now on the rise again. Why is this happening?
Well, there are a couple of theories.
Theory number 1 is that parents actually followed the precautions, thus reducing the number of SIDS related deaths. But then, parents got more paranoid and started sleeping with their babies, making the number rise again.
Theory number 2 is that the number of deaths never really went down at all. There has been some research conducted that has indicated that some coroners were actually putting “SIDS” on the death certificate when, in fact, it was accidental suffocation. It wasn’t that they weren’t doing their homework, it was just that they didn’t want to the parents to feel guilty for accidentally suffocating their child.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the precautions again.
- Do no co-sleep, but keep the baby in the room with you. This is pretty cut and dry. A lot of parents like to try sleep training right away and prefer to keep their baby in its own bedroom right from the start. I wasn’t one of those types of parents before and I certainly won’t be now. Sam slept in our room until he was a year old and if we have another one, at least one of us will sleep in the room with him or her until that age. I do not trust baby monitors. (Not for babies anyway although they are excellent at picking up conversations that your in-laws are having about you or for ghost hunting.)
The co-sleeping thing might not even be SIDS-related at all. The fear to this is that the parent will either unintentionally roll over on the child while they are sleeping and suffocate them or the child will get sideways and press up against the parent and be unable to breathe. This is referred to as “accidental asphyxiation.” Neither is SIDS.
When I slept with Sam during the night I always placed in him a baby travel bed which folds up nicely and can be taken everywhere. That way, he could still sleep in the bed with me, but he was actually in his own bed.
- Ah, those hateful blankets and pillows and things. So, how do these pertain to SIDS? Here’s how this works…Sometimes, the baby can get trapped UNDER the blankets and stuffed animals and thus are unable to breathe. Again, this is NOT SIDS. This is suffocation. Other time, the soft blankets can get close and the baby can breathe in their own poisonous gases. Adults, children, and most infants are able to recognize this in their sleep and either move the blankets or turn their heads but for SIDS babies, there is some function in their bran that doesn’t alert them to this danger. In effect, they poison themselves with their own gasses.
- The van thing is kind of similar. A well ventilated room will help keep the air moving around and thus help oxygen reach the baby. This actually goes hand-in-hand with the next one, which is keeping the baby warm but not hot. Most SIDS babies have had elevated temperatures. We don’t know what that means but keeping the room, and therefore the baby, at an even temperature is somehow helpful.
- Use a pacifier. I have done a little bit of research on this and found a couple of different things about it. A pacifier will keep a baby from reaching deep sleep, when it is most likely to decease. However, the idea is to put the baby to sleep with the pacifier and to NOT reinsert it if it falls out during the night. As long as they are sucking on the pacifier you can be assured that things are working properly. I’m not sure why you’re not supposed to reinsert it. I haven’t gotten that far yet.
- Sleep positioning. There are mixed reviews about this. Apparently, if you place the baby on its stomach while it sleeps then it has a better chance of breathing in the poisonous fumes that it is omitting. That’s always why it is recommended that you not place your baby on a soft surface, because the soft blankets can bunch up around him and trap the air. (And they can lead to suffocation.) Things change, though. For awhile the campaign was to place the baby on his stomach and not on his back.
In other research I have found that SIDS babies seem to die between the hours of 3:00 am and 6:00 am. This is about the timeframe that we have established for Toby’s death, although we don’t have the autopsy report back yet. Mom says that when she came up at 9:30 (after she heard us screaming) he still felt warm. However, he had been next to Pete and could have been gotten warmth from him. When I started CPR on him he already felt cold and lifeless to me. Actually from the moment I saw him I pretty much knew that he was gone. He was already turning blue. I think he must have passed away not long after Pete laid him down, which would have been closer to 4:00 am.
At any rate, I thought explanations to these precautions might be helpful.
One of the biggest things that I have found is that in SIDS babies something isn’t quite right in their developing stages. The part of the brain that tells the heart to beat the lungs to breathe just doesn’t do its part. And while you can follow the precautions, that’s something that you just can’t fix. You might be able to catch it if you stand over your baby 24/7 but that’s still no guarantee.
If we choose to have another baby then we will invest in an angel monitor. I know there are mixed reviews on these, but it’s better than nothing.
I have a friend whose baby died of SIDS and she thinks that hers might have actually been sleep apnea and I’m not ruling that out, either. I am pretty sure Sam has it and we are going to call the pediatrician, make an appointment, and have him sleep tested. Mom has it and I’m not so sure that I don’t have it. I have no idea if it’s genetic or not but Sam is a very poor sleeper, has stopped breathing in his sleep, and snores louder than we do. While we have insurance, we may as well make sure he’s okay.
There are some risk factors associated with SIDS and they are as follows:(taken from http://www.beliefnet.com/healthandhealing/getcontent.aspx?cid=11559)
- Infant's age: less than 6 months old
- Low birth weight
- Fetal growth retardation
- History of SIDS death in a sibling
- History of an acute life-threatening event
- Previous incident of unexplained severe apnea (when breathing is repeatedly interrupted) requiring resuscitation
- Sleeping on the stomach or side rather than back
- Other risk factors are more general and include:
- Mother's age: younger than 20 during first pregnancy
- Black, Native American, and Alaskan Native families
- Poverty may play a role
- Sex: male
- Smoking during pregnancy or in a house where the baby is sleeping
- Alcohol, opiate, or cocaine use during pregnancy
- History of anemia or a urinary tract infection while pregnant
- No or late prenatal care
- Premature birth
- Recent infection and/or fever
- Cold weather in late fall or winter
- Low socioeconomic status or low level of education
- No pacifier use at bed time
And again, here is a bigger list of "Preventions"
PreventionThere is no way to predict which infants will die of SIDS. Several actions may help you lower your child's risk of SIDS:During pregnancy:
- Get prenatal care early and regularly.
- Do not smoke or use drugs while pregnant.
- Put the baby down to sleep on his or her back.
- Other factors that may help reduce SIDS risk include:
- Provide a firm crib mattress.
- Do not place blankets, a comforter, pillow, or sheepskin under the baby.
- Do not let the baby sleep on a waterbed.
- Remove soft, stuffed toys from the bed.
- Keep the baby's room at a comfortable temperature (68°F-72°F).
- Do not overdress the baby.
- Allow pacifier use during nap time and bedtime.
- Do not cover the baby's head or face.
- Avoid overheating.
- Do not smoke in the house, or quit entirely.
- Take the baby for regular medical care.
- Have your child immunized at the recommended times.
- Learn infant CPR.
- Allow the infant to sleep in their crib in the same room you sleep in (but do not let them sleep in the same bed)