By Nurse Diane
When I was pregnant with my son, I was young and had no experience around babies. I had moved in with my parents when he was 6 weeks old, and it had been 20 something years since my mother had been around any babies. Her sister who had four of them by that time, was an expert, so we waited a few months til she came to visit before we even put him in water to bathe him. Before that time, I had just been washing him off on a big sponge pad for babies. I never even put him in real clothes until he was several months old, instead dressing him in gowns that tied at the bottom. We also placed him in bed on his stomach, believing that putting him on his back was bad for him. Thinking that sleeping on his back would cause his tongue to block his airway. Now we know that putting him on his stomach was the worst position to put him in.
The reason this is bad is because stomach sleeping can increase an infant's risk of "rebreathing" his or her own exhaled air, particularly if the infant is sleeping on a soft mattress or with bedding, stuffed toys, or a pillow near the face. In that scenario, the soft surface could create a small enclosure around the baby's mouth and trap exhaled air. As the baby breathes exhaled air, the oxygen level in the body drops and carbon dioxide accumulates. Eventually, this lack of oxygen could contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS is the unexplainable cause of death for infants between the ages of 1 month to one year of age. Some of the other causes of SIDS include:
- Being around cigarette smoke while in the womb or after being born;
- Sleeping in the same bed as their parents (co-sleeping);
- Soft bedding in the crib;
- Multiple birth babies (being a twin, triplet, etc.);
- Premature birth;
- Having a brother or sister who had SIDS;
- Mothers who smoke or use illegal drugs;
- Being born to a teen mother;
- Short time period between pregnancies;
- Late or no prenatal care; and
- Living in poverty situations.
Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms when the infant is thought to be sleeping. Ways to prevent SIDS include:
- Place the infant on the back to sleep;
- Keep soft fluffy material away from the crib;
- Allow infant to sleep in the same room as parents, but not the same bed;
- Offer a pacifier after one month of age to prevent interference with breast feeding; and
- Don’t keep the room too hot.
October is SIDS Awareness Month. For more information click on this site: http://www.cdc.gov/features/SidsAwarenessMonth/