Imagine this: you’ve been blessed with a beautiful new baby. You obviously love and cherish the new addition to your family sphere. Perhaps you feel you’ve been blessed with the one thing that will bring you joy and happiness for the rest of your life.
And then, in an instant, it’s all gone.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, better known as crib death or simply SIDS, claims the lives of about 2,500 babies each year. Because no real specific cause is known, it can pose as a very real danger for many new or expectant mothers. As defined simply by the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby, and it usually occurs during sleep. Though most infants killed by SIDS are under one year old, there have been several cases of older babies dying.
While the exact cause cannot be definitively pinned down, doctors and scientists believe several risk factors can come into play:
- If the baby is experiencing stress caused by infection
- Birth defects
- A period of rapid growth
- The baby’s inability to wake up in a timely manner
- The baby’s body’s inability to detect a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood
- Low birth weight
- Not sleeping on his or her back
- Cribs with loose fabric or toys and insufficient firmness
Ways You Can Help Prevent this Tragedy
SIDS has been known to occur instantly and with very little warning. In fact, almost all cases of SIDS occurred while the infant was thought to be asleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is not thought to cause pain or suffering in the baby, thankfully. But it cannot be predicted. There are, however, some steps you can take to reduce the risk that your baby will be a victim.
Because of the unpredictable and fatal nature of SIDS, parents are urged to have their baby sleep only on their back. Also, you should avoid co-sleeping at all costs (sleeping with the baby on a couch or bed, for example), and instead place the baby in a sturdy crib with a firm mattress and no other objects. This is extremely important as over 75 percent of all cases of SIDS happen while the baby is sleeping in the same place as another person.
There are a few other things you can do to ensure your baby’s safety, such as keeping your baby in a smoke-free environment, not feeding your baby honey (which could lead to infant botulism), and not wasting money on or relying on baby monitors advertised as a way to keep an eye on an infant’s breathing, as these devices have been found to make virtually no difference.
Will the Mystery Ever Be Solved?
The mystery deepens still with this strange, tragic affliction. Though SIDS can happen in babies from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life, male babies are more likely to die from SIDS than girls; and African American babies have a 2-3 times greater risk of dying from SIDS. The scariest part about SIDS is that there are no symptoms. Grieving parents are left with one less child and often burdened with mountains of stress and guilt – guilt that may never really go away.
Once your baby is past the age of one, the danger of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is largely gone. Following these tips prior to that milestone age can help minimize the risk even further.
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“Facts about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” ChildrensNational.org. Children’s National Medical Center, n.d. Web. 11 July 2012. https://www.childrensnational.org/research/OurResearch/disorders/cccr/CribDeathSIDS-facts-summary.aspx.
“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.” NIH.gov. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 11 July 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002533/.
“Reducing the Risk of SIDS.” SIDS.org. American SIDS Institute, n.d. Web. 11 July 2012. https://www.sids.org/nprevent.htm.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” MayoClinic.com. Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 11 July 2012. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/DS00145.
“Facts about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” SIDS-Network.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2012. https://sids-network.org/facts.htm.