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Protecting babies: 10 ways to stop SIDS

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State health officials recently gathered with state, local and national leaders to discuss ways to reduce infant deaths in Indiana.

“One baby dies every 13 hours in Indiana,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams. “This is a startling and heartbreaking statistic. The summit’s mission was to gather health experts, community and faith-based leaders together in one place where we could share information about what is currently being done, identify needs and learn from one another in an effort to save infant lives.”

The top five causes of infant mortality in the U.S. are: birth defects; babies born too early or small; the baby being affected by maternal complications; injury; and SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

SIDS is when a baby 12 months or younger dies during sleep with no warning signs or a clear reason. Although there is no 100 percent way to prevent SIDS, there are ways to lower a baby’s risk.

Following are 10 ways to help prevent SIDS.

Put a sleeping baby on his/her back

A baby’s risk of SIDS is very high any time he or she sleeps on the side or stomach. (A baby placed on his side can roll over on his stomach.) These positions put your baby’s face in the mattress or sleeping area, which can smother him/her.

Every time a baby is put down for sleeping, lay him/her down on their back. Tell anyone who takes care of your baby how essential it is to lay your sleeping baby on their back each time.

If you’re worried the baby might choke while sleeping on his back, don’t be. Choking is rare, and healthy babies tend to swallow or cough up fluids automatically. If you’re still concerned, ask a pediatrician about elevating the head of your baby’s bed.

Once your baby can roll over both ways, which usually happens around 6 months, they may not stay on their back. That’s OK. It’s fine to let them choose their own sleep position once he/she knows how to roll over.

Have a firm baby bed with no soft toys or bedding

To prevent smothering or suffocation, always lay your baby down to sleep on a firm surface, like a safety-approved mattress with a fitted sheet. All your baby’s crib needs is the fitted sheet – no blankets, quilts, pillows, sheepskin, stuffed toys, or crib bumpers in your baby’s crib.

To confirm the safety of your baby’s mattress or crib contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772 or cpsc.gov.

Don’t smoke around your baby

Babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy die from SIDS three times more often than babies born to nonsmokers. Smoking when you’re pregnant is a major risk factor for SIDS, and second-hand smoke around your infant also increases the chances of SIDS.

Keep your sleeping baby close, but not in your bed

When a baby sleeps in the same room as mom, studies show it lowers the risk of SIDS. But it’s dangerous for a baby to sleep with another child or an adult in the same bed, in an armchair, and on a couch.

If you bring your baby into your bed for comforting or breastfeeding, be sure to put the baby back in his or her own cradle, bassinet, crib, or co-sleeper (a crib-like bed that attaches to an adult bed) when you’re ready to sleep.

Breastfeed as long as possible

Breastfeeding your baby can lower the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, though experts aren’t sure why. Some think breast milk may protect babies from infections that increase their SIDS risk. However, do not drink alcohol if you breastfeed because that has been found to increase your baby’s risk of SIDS.

Immunize your baby

Evidence shows babies who’ve been immunized in accordance with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC have a 50 percent reduced risk of SIDS compared with babies who aren’t fully immunized.

Consider using a pacifier to put your baby to sleep

Putting your baby to sleep with a pacifier may also help prevent SIDS, though researchers aren’t sure why. Here are a few keys to this: wait until the baby is at least 1 month old because introducing a pacifier too soon may cause nipple confusion; don’t force it upon the baby; and keep the pacifier clean and damage free.

Keep your baby from overheating

Because overheating may raise a baby’s risk of SIDS, dress your infant in light, comfortable clothes for sleeping, and keep the room temperature at a level that’s comfortable for an adult. If you’re worried about the baby staying warm, dress him in a “onesie,” pajamas that cover arms, legs, hands, and feet. Remember, don’t use a blanket!

Don’t give honey to an infant under 1 year old

Because honey can lead to botulism in very young children, never give honey to a child under 1 year old. Botulism and the bacteria that causes it may be linked to SIDS.

Steer clear of products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS

It’s best to avoid any product that says it can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS because most aren’t proven safe or effective. Cardiac monitors and electronic respirators also haven’t been proven to reduce SIDS risk, so avoid these, too.

For more information about SIDS, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at StateHealth.in.gov or a health care provider. Info source: Webmd.com.

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