Health

County Experts Urge Parents to Follow New SIDS Guidelines

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Guidelines released recently include a new recommendation aimed at decreasing the risks associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the leading cause of death in infants 1 to 12 months old in the United States.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough investigation. SIDS cannot be predicted or prevented, but there are steps that can be taken by parents to reduce the risk to infants and there are other sudden deaths while sleeping -such as accidental deaths from suffocation or strangulation – that can be prevented.

The American Academy of Pediatrics newest recommendation is for infants to sleep in their parents’ bedroom for the first six months to a year, but not in the same bed as the parents.

“There is strong evidence behind the new recommendations,” said Dean Sidelinger, San Diego County child health medical officer. “New evidence shows that having the infant in the room with the parents for the first six months to a year decreases the risk of sleep-related deaths by as much as 50 percent.

“Parents should make sure their infant is placed on their back on a firm sleeping surface such as a crib or bassinet. A baby should never be put to sleep on surfaces such as a couch, cushioned chair or in the same bed as the parents.”

Experts also recommend breastfeeding as an added protection against SIDS.

Approximately 3,500 infants die annually in the United States from sleep-related deaths and about 1,500 of those are from SIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to create a safe sleeping environment include:

  • Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting mattress sheet.
  • Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  • Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

The County has a Safe4Baby initiative that has SIDS prevention resources available online.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact