Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is every parent’s worst nightmare. From the time a family has their new baby until that child is 1 year of age, SIDS is of a concern. 

Most new parents in 2012 know about the Back to Sleep campaign (BTS), which was recommended by the AAP in 1994. After  the recommendation for newborn’s sleep position was changed from prone (tummy) to supine (back) the incidence of SIDS in the U.S. showed a sharp decline (more than 50%) over the first 10 year period. Unfortunately, the overall SIDS rate has plateaued since that time, and SIDS is still the leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S. 

A study in the April 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics looked at risk factors for SIDS. Parents need to know that greatest risk for SIDS is during the first 12 months of life (the so named “Critical” development period). There are also both intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for SIDS as well. All of these factors contribute to the vulnerability for SIDS. 

The peak incidence for SIDS is still between 2-4 months of a baby’s life. (postnatal age). The intrinsic risk factors for SIDS include, male gender, prematurity, genetic differences (now being found called polymorphisms) and a child’s prenatal exposure to cigarettes and/or alcohol. Extrinsic risk factors include tummy or side sleep position, bed sharing, over bundling, soft bedding and a child’s face being covered.  In this study 99% of SIDS infants had at least 1 risk factor, and 57% had at least 2 extrinsic and 1 intrinsic risk factors. Only 5% of the SIDS victims studied had no extrinsic risk. I think this is important for all parents to know! 

So what can parent’s do to lower the risk of SIDS for their baby?  Well, while you cannot change the peak incidence of SIDS between 2-4 months of a baby’s life there is a lot you can do! 

Looking at intrinsic factors:  gender is a 50-50 deal and seeing that I have 3 sons, I don’t know a lot about gender selection, so will not even touch that topic. But, you can prevent prenatal cigarette and alcohol exposure, and every pregnant mother (and father due to second had smoke issues) should eliminate smoking. That sounds easy enough. 

Prematurity may be lessened when a mother is healthy prior to her pregnancy and continues to do as much as possible during her pregnancy to ensure a full term birth. Basically maintaining a healthy diet, getting good prenatal care and listening to your doctor will help to prevent many pre-term births. 

Extrinsic factors are the easiest to change. While prone sleep positioning is a large risk factor for SIDS, there is now evidence that some other risks may appear in conjunction with sleep position.  Putting a baby on their side where they may roll to their tummies may be one issue.  Leaving soft objects or blanket in the crib may be another. Bed sharing is also not advised. 

So, the so-called “triple risk factors” for SIDS may be important information in providing risk reduction strategies for parents and caregivers. Any change that may lessen the risk of SIDS is meaningful and beneficial and will help new parents sleep a bit better as well!  I also did not see any mention of video cameras in the room as a reduction in risk, just saying..... 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.