Wednesday, October 6, 1999
offers suggestions for avoiding crib deaths
I appreciated the SIDS article in this week's Healthwise section. Not enough parents are aware of the ways they can help reduce their chances of SIDS happening to their baby. I would like to add to your article some important, and proven, ways that are often overlooked.
Avoid smoking prenatally. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at a 2-5 times higher risk of SIDS, asthma, respiratory infections, and other breathing disorders.
Breastfeed your baby. The SIDS risk for bottle-fed babies is three times higher than for breastfed babies. One of the many reasons for this is that breastfeeding helps organize the coordination of baby's system, including breathing and swallowing. Breastfed babies are also less prone to breathing disorders that may interfere with their sleep breathing. The immunizing effect of breastfeeding is also thought to be a contributing factor in the decrease.
Increase your baby's safety during sleep. In cultures with the lowest SIDS rates, parents and babies sleep together in the same bed. Babies can take breathing, heart rate, sleeping cycle and temperature cues from those they share a bed with, which helps them learn to regulate their bodies better and safer. This is a safe practice unless either parent is medicated, high, drunk, or otherwise unable to function normally. Waterbeds and soft sofas are not safe for babies.
Avoid overheating your baby. Uncover baby's head unless baby is under eight pounds and the room is very cold. Don't bundle a sick baby, especially one with a high fever. Bundling increases the baby's temperature. Dress your baby in the same manner you would dress for the temperature. Don't overheat the baby's sleeping area. 68†-70† is best. Humidity levels of 60-70 percent are best for baby. Dress baby for sleeping comfort, warmth, and safety.
Wear your baby. Babywearing (by using a sling) helps to regulate several systems: balance regulation occurs faster and easier; more even breathing; more stable heart rates; fewer episodes of periodic breathing and sleep apnea; healthier levels of blood oxygen; faster growth; less crying and more quiet alertness motion calms babies; better sleeping.
It also keeps stress hormones in balance in both mother and baby; increases brain growth-promoting substances; enhances infant's body heat regulation; promotes hormones that help baby thrive; improves energy efficiency of baby's overall physiology; promotes self-protective sleep patterns (thereby reducing SIDS); improves function of brain, heart and lungs; enhances maternal hormones that increase awareness and sensitivity between mom and baby (making for even safer co-sleeping); and enhances baby's immunity to infection.
Nationally known and respected author and pediatrician Dr. William Sears has written an excellent book on SIDS, titled SIDS: A Parent's Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Suzanne S. Powell