Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and similar sleep-related circumstances cause the death of around 3,500 infants in the United States every year.
The overall death rate had an initial decrease in the 1990s, but it hasn’t declined in recent years. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated safe sleep recommendations to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths.
What is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) refers to cases of unexplained infant death — even after a thorough investigation was conducted. It is a subcategory of sudden unexpected death syndrome (SUID). The latter is a term used to describe any explained or unexplained sudden death during infancy.
The difference between SIDS and SUID is not immediately determined, so the AAP’s recommendations for a safe sleep environment apply to both. These include positioning the infant on their back, using a firm sleep surface, sharing a room, and avoiding overheating.
Furthermore, the AAP has additional recommendations for the reduction of the risk of SIDS.
What are the recommendations for SIDS prevention?
THE AAP released an updated policy statement regarding safe sleep environment for infants on the November 2016 issue of Pediatrics. It presents new evidence that addresses skin-to-skin care for newborn infants, the use of bedside and in-bed sleepers, and even the use of soft bedding after the infant’s first four months. It also puts the spotlight of parents sleeping in the same room — but not the same bed — as the infant.
“We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home,” said the report’s lead author Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP. As such, they provide these new parents with “clean and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep.”
These recommendations are:
- Placing the infant on his or her back on a firm sleep surface (i.e. crib or bassinet) with a tight-fitting sheet;
- Keeping the crib bare and avoiding soft beddings such as crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, and soft toys;
- Avoiding the infant’s exposure to smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs; and
- Sharing a bedroom with the parents for at least the first six months.
According to the AAP’s report, letting the infant share a bedroom with the parents until his or her first year decreases the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. They remind parents, however, that they should not share the same sleeping surface as the infant. The updated recommendations also include breastfeeding, skin-to-skin care, vaccinations, and a pacifier at nap time and bedtime as added protection against SIDS.
Finally, the AAP encourages open conversations between families and their doctors regarding sleep practices for precaution.