It’s October and it’s SIDS Awareness Month. Sudden Instant Death Syndrome also known as SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a healthy infant who is younger than one-year-old. It’s a very terrifying phenomenon because unlike other diseases and illnesses it does not have any warning symptoms. SIDS usually occurs between the ages of two and five months and is more prevalent in babies of African descent. Studies show that African-American infants are twice as likely and Native American infants are about three times more likely to die from SIDS. The babies die in their sleep which has given the syndrome the nickname Crib Death.
SIDS claims the lives of about 2,500 each year in the United States alone. In Africa, SIDS kills more babies because the awareness is very low. A lot of research has been done on SIDS to find the causes and preventive measures that can be used to save babies from this unpredictable fate. The hypothesized cause of Crib Death is the blockage of airways of a baby or inhaling its own exhaled air while it’s asleep. A few precautions can be taken to prevent SIDS.
Black families often follow traditional child rearing advice that is the opposite what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. We tend to put our infants to bed on their stomachs and even introduce cereal in a baby bottle before the infant is at the stage of development to start solid foods in order to get the baby to sleep through the entire night. In a campaign called Back to Sleep, the recommended way to put babies to sleep is known as the “supine position.” This just means babies are to be put on their backs to sleep instead of on their stomachs. This reduces the number of babies who die from SIDS. Another precaution that should be taken to reduce the chances of SIDS is keeping all stuffed toys and pillows away from babies when they sleep to prevent them from breathing their own carbon dioxide, which is in their exhaled breath.
Avoiding smoking before or after childbirth is another preventive measure for SIDS because may affect their central nervous system. Infants of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to die of SIDS. Also researchers believe that breastfeeding may help protect babies from infections that increase the risk of SIDS. Breast milk being the healthiest type of milk for babies is always best.
Pre-and-postnatal care is believed to be another way to prevent SIDS. Babies who have regular check-ups have a lower chance of dying from SIDS. Researchers also recommend that babies sleep with a pacifier. It should not be forced on the child though. If the child is uncomfortable with the pacifier it’s fine to discontinue using it. Also keep your baby close by when the baby sleeps but always on a firm mattress in a crib and keep the temperature cool. Warm babies have a higher risk of SIDS as they sleep deeper when they are warm making it difficult to wake up.
The research for Sudden Instant Death Syndromes is still in the early stages. Babies less than one-year should be cared for with extreme care and precaution.