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Sleeping safe and sound

Pediatrics' academy releases new guidelines on preventing SIDS

Pediatrics' academy releases new guidelines on preventing SIDS

November 04, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

As 2-month-old Jesse Talbott Jr. sleeps in his fuzzy, one-piece blanket sleeper, nestled - without blankets - in a bassinet, his mother, Jessica Talbott, also sleeps a little easier.

That's because Talbott and her husband, Jesse, have taken every precaution to reduce the chance her baby might succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which claims more than 2,000 American infant lives every year.

In order to help reduce such numbers further, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released last month new recommendations for parents and caregivers of infants.

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, the cause of SIDS is unknown. Doctors have, however, identified factors that increase the risk an infant will die from the syndrome. For example, loose bedding, overheating, exposure to cigarette smoke and sleeping in the same bed with a parent have all been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

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In the late 1980s, doctors discovered a direct relationship between "tummy sleeping" and the prevalence of SIDS cases. Since then, as pediatricians have advocated placing infants to sleep on their back, the number of SIDS-related deaths have been cut in half, says information on the AAP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web sites.

In 2002, the year for which the most recent data is available, SIDS was responsible for 2,295 deaths, according to the CDC. SIDS is the third-leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and the first cause of death for infants one month to one year old, according to information from the CDC. SIDS deaths are most common in the first six months of life, according to information from the AAP.

Continued SIDS studies have led to the following changes in the AAP's recommendations to further decrease the number of infants who die from the syndrome:

An infant should only sleep on its back. The AAP no longer recognizes "side sleeping" as a safe way to sleep for children younger than 1, according to a press release from the academy.

"Studies have found that the side sleep position is unstable and increases the chances of the infant rolling onto his or her stomach," the press release says. The AAP now recommends that when infants are sleeping they should only be placed on their backs.

Jennifer and Tony Dyer of Hagerstown took that recommendation one step further with their 10-month-old daughter, Olivia. They used a wedge to elevate Olivia's crib mattress so that the mattress was slightly higher on the end where her head rests. The elevation helps with breathing, says Tony Dyer.

An infant should have its own bed. Bed sharing is not recommended by the AAP as a safe way for infants to sleep. Comforting or feeding an infant in bed with parents or a caregiver is fine, but physicians are concerned about loose, soft bedding that might suffocate an infant.

Both Talbott and Tony Dyer say they shied away from bed sharing since they were nervous about rolling over on their baby.

"For us to roll over on her was something that I worried about," Dyer says. "Most of the books tell you not to do that."

But there is some evidence, according to the AAP Web site, that the occurrence of SIDS is reduced when infants sleep in the same room with their caregiver. The AAP now recommends that infants sleep close to their parents, but in separate beds.

Use a pacifier. "Research now indicates an association between pacifier use and a reduced risk of SIDS," according to the AAP press release. If parents use pacifiers with their infants, the academy recommends giving a baby a pacifier when it goes to sleep. A pacifier should not be put back in if it falls from the baby's mouth while sleeping, says information on the AAP Web site. The academy also recommends that if the child is breast-feeding, pacifiers should not be used until the infant is at least 1 month old, "to ensure that breast-feeding is firmly established," according to information from the AAP.

Jesse is Jessica Talbott's fourth child and while she has learned what precautions to take when caring for an infant, she still worries about SIDS "all the time," she says.

"They say you never stop worrying about (your kids)," Talbott says with a laugh. "After a certain amount of time, (children) are not prone to (SIDS), but I still check on my 2-year-old daughter in the middle of the night."

When it comes to keeping infants safe while sleeping, it's always better to err on the side of caution, pediatricians advise.

The Dyers chose a crib for Olivia without openings so that she wouldn't get her head and arms stuck. They also bought "SIDS proof" fitted sleeping outfits that will keep her warm without slipping over her face.

Talbott experienced the pain of losing a child from SIDS when her cousin's child suddenly and unexpectedly died.

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