SIDS Risk Involves More Than Your Baby's Sleeping Environment

newborn sleeping

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Back to Sleep campaign helped decrease the number of infants who died of SIDS, but we want that number to be zero. A new study has revealed that while there are factors that contribute to SIDS risk, others are beyond our control.


It seems that even when we do everything right, there are sometimes biological factors that cause SIDS. Grieving parents often feel it's their fault or something they did, but that is not always the case. In addition to the things we can control, there are simply things we cannot, as we learn from a new study. This research led by Dr. Richard Goldstein, of Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, explains how complicated SIDS is and notes the three major elements that can add to newborn's risk of SIDS.

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One element is that some infants have a predisposition to SIDS. This is difficult to hear. There are genetic, developmental, and environmental factors. Premature babies and boys are more susceptible to SIDS. It has been shown that babies who are breast fed tend to be less susceptible. This is hard to hear for moms who cannot breastfeed, but we have to remember that this isn't the only factor. Drinking alcohol and smoking during pregnancy can increase your child's risk of SIDS, so that is something within our control. But some of it, sadly, is not.

The second element is that SIDS generally affects babies younger than six months old, when they are in that very important stage of early development. What are we to do as parents during that critical time period? Is this another added stress, another thing to worry about it? I think once we are parents learn about SIDS, it is a worry always in the back of our minds.

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The third element is where we have made great strides and are able to actively do something to decrease risk -- this is in a baby's sleeping environment. This is why the Back the Sleep campaign has brought the numbers down 38 percent. We must continue putting our babies to sleep on their backs and keep stuffed animals, soft toys, crib bumpers, pillows, and blankets out of the crib, and putting our babies to sleep in sleep clothing like wearable blankets.

But experts caution that even with all that we can control, it's not enough to eliminate the risk completely. I appreciate this study -- we have to continue to examine this and continue to make sure all parents know all the risks and what can decrease a baby's chances of SIDS, but the fact remains that sometimes we can do everything right and it can still happen. There are unknowns.

What we want are more studies so more light will shine on the topic. We want to know if anything more can be done so no family will ever have to have a child die of SIDS. Thankfully that research continues to be done, and we can continue to educate ourselves and hope there are more breakthroughs.


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