Expert Health Articles

SIDS & Safe Sleep Practices for Infants

Susan Grace, MD

Pediatric Hospitalist
Pediatric Hospitalists of Northwest Ohio

There has been a recent increase in cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in our community. SIDS is the leading cause of death for children under the age of one. These losses are heartbreaking for the families and for our community. While not every infant death has a preventable cause, the majority of them are associated with risk factors, including unsafe sleep. As parents, there are things that can be done to decrease the risk of SIDS. 

Best Practices for Safe Sleep

An infant should always sleep alone, on their back, in a crib. It can be so tempting to snuggle our infants in bed while we sleep or to fall asleep on the couch with the infant on our chest. This is a recipe for disaster. As a pediatrician for over ten years, I have seen these scenarios turn into infant deaths many times. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing but never bed-sharing. The crib should be free of any pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals, or loose bedding. These items may make the crib appear more appealing, but they are unnecessary for the baby and can be a means of suffocation. 

Back is Best

The safest position for an infant is on their back. This is how they can best protect their airway. Supervised tummy time is important, but never during sleep. Infants should also never be left unsupervised in a rocker, inclined positioners, or pillow-like products. Although many of these items have been recalled, some are still available in stores or on the secondhand market. Car seats should also not be used for sleep. Always remove your baby from the car seat once you arrive at your destination. 

Other Risk Factors

Other risk factors for SIDS include maternal smoking and drug use, lack of prenatal care, and having a sibling who passed away from SIDS. Make sure to see your doctor as soon as you are expecting. There is help available if you are struggling with nicotine and other addictions. 

Discussing Oxygen Monitors & Breastfeeding

Some parents have asked if they should get home oxygen monitors for their babies. The current evidence has not shown a decrease in SIDS with the use of these home monitors. The monitors have also been shown to have a high false alarm rate and unnecessary emergency room visits. Please discuss the benefits of these monitors with your physician if you think your infant is at higher risk for SIDS. 

There are some studies that show that breastfeeding, pacifier use, and the use of fans in bedrooms may reduce an infant's risk of SIDS.  

I hope that with this information, we can reduce the increasing number of infant losses in Hancock County and the surrounding area.