Sadly, thousands of babies die each year due to sudden unexpected infant death syndrome (SUIDS), the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have a known cause, but could be related to heart or neurologic problems.
SUIDS also includes unsafe sleeping conditions leading to accidental suffocation or strangulation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies are at risk in their first month of life, but more commonly at 1 months to 4 months old and often their sleep-environment can play a factor.
While SUIDS is the leading cause of death for ages one month to one year, the good news is, it can be preventable in many cases. During SIDS awareness month in October, Prem Fort, M.D., a neonatologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital shares what parents can do to protect their tiny bundle of joy.
Six Ways to Keep Baby Safe and Provide a Safe Sleep Environment
There is no way to 100 percent prevent SIDS/SUIDS, but there are many ways to reduce your baby's risk:
Use/buy a newer crib
Babies should only sleep in a crib (not in bed with parents, on couch, in car seat, etc.), but it’s also important to avoid purchasing an older crib, play yard or bassinet that’s not up to safety standards. Cribs should have slats that are no more than 2⅜ inches apart.
Make note of surroundings
Never place a crib near a window with blinds/cords or anything baby could reach.
Place baby on back in bare crib
Not only should your baby be on his or her back but there should not be anything in the bed. This includes bumper pads, pillows, blankets/covers or positioning devices/wedges that could cause accidental suffocation or strangulation.
Keep it cool
Keep the temperature in your baby’s bedroom cool to avoid overheating.
Breastfeed when possible
Several recent studies show breastmilk has protective effects against SIDS, not to mention it can boost baby’s immune system and supports brain health.
Don’t expose baby to smoke
Avoid smoking or having anyone in/around the house smoke before or after birth as this could affect baby’s breathing.
Following the tips above will help to prevent accidental injuries and suffocation. Many new parents may still worry and check on newborns during the night to see if they are still breathing. Remember, if their chest is rising and you hear light breaths and see normal coloring, they are likely just fine. However, heavy or consistent rapid breathing and no chest movement warrants a call to your pediatrician, or in an emergency, call 9-1-1.
Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/parenting for more tips on safe sleep, breastfeeding and other questions about babies and toddler health.