October is SIDS Awareness Month. Sharing safe sleep practices and what you need to know to reduce the risk of SUIDS/SIDS, is Caryn Shender, Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist and Coach, certified safe sleep ambassador, and Founder of Sleep Tight Tonight.
Whether you are a new parent or seasoned parent, bringing home baby can be scary. You are expected to suddenly know how to keep this precious, adorable, little human alive. You may find yourself standing over your baby, staring to see if they are breathing. Maybe even with your hand under their nose to make sure you feel air. One way to give yourself some peace of mind and reassurance is to practice safe sleep so you can rest assured knowing that you have your baby sleeping in the safest way possible.
Practicing safe sleep is important for every child, particularly for children one year and younger. Safe sleep means putting your baby down to sleep in ways that can help protect and keep them safe from dangers like choking and suffocation. Practicing safe sleep can reduce the risk of an accidental, preventable death from Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUIDS) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
SUIDS is the umbrella term for the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than 1 year old in which the cause was not obvious before investigation. These deaths often happen during sleep or in the baby’s sleep area. Various causes may be suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, or trauma.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is when the cause of death remains unexplained after thorough investigation, the death will be ruled as SIDS. SIDS is the unexplained death that occurs when an otherwise healthy baby dies unexpectedly usually during sleep of a seemingly health baby 1 year or younger.
SIDS & SUIDS Facts
It is the leading cause of death among infants between newborn and age of 1.
More than 90% of SIDS happen in the first 6 months.
In 2020, there were about 1,389 deaths due to SIDS, about 1,062 deaths due to unknown causes, and about 905 deaths due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. (per CDC)
About 3,400 babies in the United States die suddenly and unexpectedly each year.(per CDC)
SIDS accounts for 38-42% of baby deaths.
How do I practice safe sleep?
Keep baby safe + reduce the risk of SIDS by following the ABC’s of Safe Sleep. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends putting baby down to sleep on their back for every sleep and to follow the ABC’S of Safe Sleep:
A - Alone
B- on Back
C- in the Crib
That means baby should be in her own sleep space with only a tight-fitted sheet on a horizontal, firm mattress. The sleep space should be cleared of any hazards such as dangling cords, electric wires, and window covering cords because these may present a strangulation risk. The room temperature should be between 68-72 degrees, year-round.
Sitting devices such as a car seat or stroller, swing, infant carrier/sling, etc. are not recommended for routine sleep so it is best to move her to a safe sleep space as soon as is safe and practical.
Pro Tip: Rule of thumb- If there is a buckle on it, it isn’t safe for sleeping.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS/SUIDS, and the exact cause of SIDS is still unknown, research has identified several risk factors and preventive measures that can help reduce the risk. Always consult with your pediatrician for the most up-to-date and personalized advice.
Here are some top ways to practice safe sleep and reduce the risk of SIDS:
Back to Sleep: Always place your baby on their back for sleep, for naps and at night. This is the most important measure to reduce the risk of SIDS. When babies sleep face down, they may re-breathe exhaled carbon dioxide.
Use a Firm Sleep Surface: Place your baby on a firm mattress, covered with a tight-fitted sheet. Use a firm and flat mattress in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or playpen.
Sleep Space should be empty except for baby and sheet Avoid loose bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, and bumper pads in the crib, even mobiles.
Stop Swaddling once baby shows signs of rolling. Once baby exhibits signs of rolling, swaddling is no longer is safe. Consider using a sleep sack like Kyte to keep baby warm and prevent climbing. A sleeping swaddle or wearable blanket (such as a sleep sack) is permitted once baby rolls but not a loose blanket.
Share a Room, not a Bed: Place your baby's crib or bassinet in your room for the first six to twelve months, but avoid bed-sharing. AAP recommends having the baby nearby for sleep to help reduce risk of SIDS. Skin to Skin is highly valuable during the newborn phase but should be reserved for awake time. If you are at all drowsy, please baby in their own safe sleep space.
Avoid Overheating: Dress your baby in light, breathable, comfortable clothing and keep the room temperature cool around 68-72F. Avoid overdressing or over-bundling. Rule of thumb is to dress baby in one layer more than you are wearing. So, if you have on a t-shirt and shorts, a sleeper with feet and long sleeves would suffice for baby. Baby should not wear hats to sleep once home from the hospital. Learn more about what baby should wear.
Offer a Pacifier: Consider offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime. This has been associated with a reduced risk of SIDS, although the mechanism isn't fully understood.
Breastfeeding: If you are able and willing, breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
Safe Sleep Environment: Create a safe sleep environment by ensuring that baby’s sleep space is free from hazards such as loose cords, plastic bags, and other objects and make sure the crib or bassinet meets safety standards. Learn more on the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines as of 2022.
Avoid Smoking and Alcohol/Drug Use: Do not smoke during pregnancy, and keep your baby's environment smoke-free. Avoid exposing your baby to second and thirdhand smoke.
Tummy Time: Encourage supervised tummy time when your baby is awake and alert. This helps strengthen neck and upper body muscles and reduces the risk of torticollis and developing flat spots (positional plagiocephaly) on the head. Parents are encouraged to practice supervised tummy time while awake and for short periods of time beginning soon after hospital discharge, increasing incrementally to at least 15-30 minutes total daily by 7 weeks of age.
It's essential to remember that these recommendations are designed to reduce the risk of SIDS, but they cannot guarantee prevention in every case. While SIDS remains a rare occurrence, following safe sleep practices consistently can significantly reduce the risk and create a safer sleep environment for infants. If you have concerns about your baby's sleep or SIDS risk, consult with your pediatrician or healthcare provider for guidance.
Here's to being able to Sleep Tight Tonight knowing your little one is sleeping safely!
Caryn Shender, founder of Sleep Tight Tonight, and author of My Scar is Beautiful, is a proud mom, certified pediatric sleep specialist and coach, and safe sleep ambassador who has guided thousands of families through the exhausting world of newborn, baby, and toddler sleep. She is trusted by parents and parenting coaches. As a coach, an author, and mother of a heart warrior, she understands the weight and frustration of being sleep deprived, and the anxiety that crying can cause parents, while also understanding the power and importance of getting restful, restorative sleep. Caryn became certified through the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management so she could best help her daughter sleep after her surgeries and support other families, too. She is committed to helping families turn sleepless nights into easy, peaceful nights and sweet dreams. Being a parent is hard. Being an exhausted parent is next to impossible. Together, we’ll make sleep easy.
If your child (age 0-6 years old) is struggling with sleep, schedule your FREE 15-minute Sleep Assessment Call to talk through your child’s sleep challenges, your goals, and what Sleep Tight Tonight programs offer so that we can make a plan for change together.