For years, parents and scientists have been puzzled by babies who die during sleep seemingly for no apparent cause. A recently released study in the Journal of American Medicine suggests deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) often show evidence of subtle defects affecting not only the brainstems that help rouse sleeping infants if they are breathing too little oxygen, but also the serotonin levels that keep their systems responsive.
As physicians, researchers and investigators have learned more about SIDS, they have found infants can suffocate or become trapped when sleeping in a crib with fluffy comforters, stuffed toys or pillows, or when sleeping with parents or siblings on a bed or couch, according to Brenda Boyd, R.N., Children's Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Kosair Children's Hospital and chairperson of Louisville's Safe to Sleep Committee.
"Babies are at risk because they are sleeping in places other than a safety-approved crib," Boyd said.
Since the inception of the national "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, the SIDS rate has declined by 53 percent. Locally, Boyd and other community advocates formed the Safe to Sleep Committee to decrease the number of unexplained infant deaths in Kentucky. Their recommendations, which are consistent with those of the American Academy of Pediatrics, are designed to reduce the risk of deaths attributed to unsafe sleeping practices as well as SIDS.
Safe to Sleep Committee recommendations
Place your baby on a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib. Do not use bumper pads, pillows, comforters or stuffed toys in the crib. Infants should not sleep on waterbeds, sofas or chairs.
Always place your baby on his or her back for nighttime sleep or naps, unless your doctor tellsyou differently. Make sure every one who cares for your baby is aware of this practice. The back-to-sleep position reduces the risk of SIDS.
To keep your baby from getting too hot while sleeping, set the thermostat between 68 to 72˚F.
Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Exposure to cigarette smoke doubles the risk of SIDS.
If your baby takes a pacifier, use a clean pacifier when putting your baby to sleep.
Be especially careful when you are tired. If you fall asleep while rocking or feeding your baby he or she may slip beneath you and down into the chair, sofa or bed frame.
Observe warnings and follow directions for taking over-the-counter or prescription medications. Medications, alcohol and illegal drugs can make caregivers less aware of the needs of a baby and his or her sleeping environment.
To reduce the chance of your baby developing flat spots on the back of his or her head, provide tummy time when he or she is awake.
Want to know more? Call (502) 629-KIDS to request a more detailed brochure about safe sleeping practices.