The rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have dropped significantly since the
“Back to Sleep” campaign launched in 1994, yet it continues to be a terrifying reality—and the leading cause of death—for newborns. There’s still no known cause or surefire way to prevent it, but parents can sleep easier by following the latest risk-reduction recommendations:
› Co-sleep carefully. An October 2009 study published in the British Medical Journal found that more than half of SIDS deaths occurred while the infant was sleeping with a parent in bed or on a sofa, particularly when the parent had used drugs or alcohol.
› Breastfeed for at least six months. Research in the March 2009 journal Pediatrics stated
that breastfeeding reduced the risk of SIDS by about 50 percent.
› Use a fan. According to an October 2008 article in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, infants who slept in rooms ventilated by fans had a 72 percent lower risk of SIDS than infants sleeping in fan-free rooms.
Other recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
› Always put babies to sleep on their backs (and insist on all caregivers doing so).
› Use a firm mattress, and a tight sheet with no pillows or fluffy or loose bumpers.
› Don’t smoke while pregnant or expose infants to secondhand smoke.
› Sleep in the same room (but not the same bed) as baby for the first six months.
› Consider using a pacifier after breastfeeding is well established.
› Don’t overheat baby with clothes, blankets or furnaces.
› Avoid positioners, monitors and other devices that claim to reduce SIDS risk.
› Strengthen baby’s neck and motor development with “tummy time” while she’s awake.
—Alexa Joy Sherman