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.

Enjoying Tummy Time with your Little One

Enjoying Tummy Time with your Little One Welcome home, little one! What’s the best way to introduce your baby to life outside the womb? By making tummy time an everyday adventure that develops your little one’s essential motor skills. Tummy time focuses on letting your little one develop neck strength and head control independently. Simply lay your baby on his or her stomach for a significant period of time each day and let them explore the mechanics of pushing up, rolling over, and eventually crawling. Of course a newborn is not going to have the same range of motor skills as a 5-month old, but starting tummy time earlier is developmentally favorable compared to waiting a few months for baby to grow.

Dedicating time for your little one’s motor skills development is very important considering how much time your baby spends on his or her back. At night, your baby should sleep on his or her back because it reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and while you’re on-the-go together during the day your baby is toted around in a stroller or car seat, both of which typically place your little one in a reclined position. Because your baby isn’t used to spending a lot of time front-facing, he or she may be distressed or upset during your first tummy time attempts. This is a typical infant reaction and shouldn’t make you feel as though your baby isn’t ready for tummy time; developing head control is uncomfortable for your baby but a necessary development phase.

Put your little one at ease during tummy time by joining in the fun. Playing together will help distract your baby and encourage more time spent front-facing. Peek-a-boo is a great way to engage your little one while lying down and a lot of fun for you as well. You can try laying your baby on your own stomach to help ease discomfort if your baby seems to fuss a lot while on your carpet or a special play mat. Make your tummy time space a fun, colorful area to further encourage play. Play mats with mirrors and lights can be enjoyable for baby, or you can place soft toys nearby to encourage more movement.

Be patient with your little one while they move through the pre-crawling movements and actions. Pushing up, rolling over and sitting are all small moments you will enjoy watching your little one accomplish. Make sure that your little one isn’t sleepy or hungry before starting tummy time though, as your baby should be alert and ready to play to make the most out of your time together. Your baby will be less fussy if there’s no wet diaper or hungry belly getting in the way of playing during tummy time.

Pacifier Pros and Cons for New Moms

Pacifier Pros and Cons for New MomsWhich side of the fence do you stand on concerning babies using pacifiers? Some moms feel strongly again allowing their little one to use a pacifier for fear of nipple confusion or increased fussiness while other moms are relieved to use them as tools to provide peace and quiet while in public or napping. If you haven’t made up your mind one way or another yet, we’re proving some basic facts about pacifiers that might help you decide if the soothing tool is good for your baby or not.

Across the board, most experts agree that your baby should not use a pacifier before his or her first month if you’re breastfeeding. Until a consistent nursing pattern is established, there is a worry that your little one will have a hard time sucking and gaining weight if also using a pacifier. After your newborn has begun to consistently gain weight (something best noted by newborn check-ups) and you feel confident that his or her nursing skills are in place, it’s ok to start using a pacifier. Evidence that mixing a pacifier with breastfeeding will cause nipple confusion is inconclusive, so if you’re worried that your little one’s breastfeeding success will be compromised by using a pacifier, take careful note of how your wee one likes to suck and if they are prone to continue rooting or sucking after nursing. Pacifiers are not appealing to every baby, so being aware of your baby’s patterns is a good start to see if a pacifier is the right choice.

The biggest accolade pacifiers receive from researchers is that there is strong evidence to suggest that if a baby uses a pacifier while sleeping, then their chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is less than an infant who sleeps without a pacifier. The explanation lies in the fact that if a baby falls asleep while sucking on a pacifier their consciousness is more alert and can help them wake up instead of being at risk to SIDS. There is also evidence that the sucking motion creates more airflow for baby’s breathing. Again, this research is not fully conclusive and many experts are quick to note that if a baby stops using a pacifier while asleep, you should not force it back into your baby’s mouth.

One more thought on introducing a pacifier to your baby: they can be wonderful stress-savers while out in public running errands with your little one. Sometimes when you’re juggling a full grocery cart in the checkout line, you’re not going to be able to give your little one your full attention. A pacifier can help calm your baby until you get out of the grocery store and into a space where you can give your wee one your love and affection. There’s a risk of relying too heavily on a pacifier’s soothing elements, though. Be careful that you don’t mask real causes of frustration or anxiety by popping in the pacifier each time your baby whines or cries. A pacifier can help with fussiness during a car ride home, but it should not act as a stand-in for your love and care.

What do you think, moms? Did you let your child use a pacifier? Let us know why or why not in the comments.