SIDS and Breastfeeding: Crib and Sleeping Safety Tips

New moms have a lot to worry about.  Among the most common fears is SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  This is the name given to unexplained infant deaths.  However now doctors believe there are risk factors that contribute to SIDS that vary depending on the age of the baby.

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that SIDS effects 81 in every 100,000 babies.  That’s a pretty scary statistic for new parents.  So it’s important to educate yourself on the risk factors of SIDS, which are most commonly related to suffocation.

SIDS and Breastfeeding: Crib and Sleeping Safety TipsIn 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendation for safe sleeping positions for babies.  Their “back to sleep” message dramatically decreased SIDS deaths.  Why is it important for babies to sleep on their backs?  A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that most SIDS deaths occur because the baby stops breathing for some reason and does not change positions to clear her airways.  Many infants who sleep on their stomach are more prone to sleep soundly and therefore not wake up when their airway is blocked.  This is especially apparent for babies who typically sleep on their backs but somehow end up on their stomachs and aren’t accustomed to accommodating their new position.

Risk of death due to sleep-breathing issues is most common in young infants; reports of SIDS deaths fall off after around 6 months.  But for older babies who die of SIDS, the risk factors usually involve their sleep environment more than their own ability to regulate breathing.  The same study found that older infants who died of SIDS were either co-sleeping with an adult or had blankets, pillows and stuffed animals surrounding them.  This type of sleep setup increases risk for unintentional suffocation.

There are things you can do to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS.  First, follow the AAP recommendation of putting your baby to sleep on her back.  She may roll over, but if she’s strong enough to do that, she is probably strong enough to regulate her breathing.  To help strengthen muscles, be sure to give your little one plenty of tummy time every day starting as soon as you get home from the hospital.  Even if it’s not your baby’s favorite position, a few minutes will make a big difference as her muscles develop.

Keep your baby’s sleep space clear.  Avoid blankets, pillows, toys and bumpers that are potential risks of suffocation or strangulation.  Until your pediatrician gives you the green light, all your baby needs is a crib with four sturdy rails and a fitted sheet.  Even mobiles can be dangerous if your baby can swat at it or if any of the pieces could accidentally fall into the crib.

Co-sleeping is a risk factor for SIDS, but becomes a tricky subject for breastfeeding moms.  If you want to preserve your own sleep as much as possible, the happy median is putting a crib in your bedroom to give your baby her sleep space while allowing you very easy access to her during feedings.

The good news is that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of SIDS.  Renowned specialist in pediatric care Dr. William Sears says there are several reasons why breastfeeding helps reduce SIDS:  breast milk fights respiratory infections (as well as many other inflections too); breastfeeding builds smart brains that can signal the respiratory system to react faster; breast milk is pure and doesn’t clog airways with allergens; breastfed babies have less acid reflux that may be a choking hazard; breastfeeding is soothing and promotes calm and well-organized sleep cycles; and breastfeeding improves breathing and swallowing coordination.  Dr. Sears also suggests that hormones stimulated in the mother from breastfeeding make her more in-tune and alert with changes in her baby, even while sleeping.

Educate yourself on the risks of SIDS for every stage of infancy and take the necessary precautions to keep your little lovey safe.