Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a parent's worst fear. Each year 3,500 babies in the U.S. die unexpectedly.
SIDS is one of the leading causes of death among babies younger than 6 months. Doctors say parents can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by keeping their child's crib in the same room for at least the first six months of their lives.
There are things like breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact that parents can do to foster bonding and brain development. But experts are offering other important information - some of which could save your infant's life.
"You don't know the cause, there is no explanation for the death. It typically happens when the baby is sleeping," said registered NICU nurse Jennifer Amaya.
Although SIDS can happen at any time, there are things experts advise that you can do to help prevent the unexplained condition or others that can occur during sleep.
"The new guidelines that the Academy of Pediatrics is trying to teach are the "ABCs of Safe Sleep" and that stands for I sleep best Alone, on my Back, and in my own Crib. We are trying to get parents away from co-sleeping," Amaya said. "That is one of the biggest risk factors for SIDS. Also another new recommendation is placing infants to sleep on their back. It used to be okay to put infants to sleep on the side or on the tummy. We call it the prone position and that is no longer recommended and has been ruled as unsafe. So we are trying to teach them to sleep exclusively on their back."
Over the years, a number of risk factors have been identified that increase the likelihood of SIDS:
"SIDS is still the leading cause of death for infants under a year of age. One baby dying of SIDS is too many so anything we can do to lessen that number. Since the 'Back to Sleep' campaign came out in 1994, the rate of SIDS deaths has declined significantly, but we still have work we can do. And we are pushing education to try and get that number to zero," said Amaya.
There is no sure way to prevent SIDS, and no exam or test can predict whether a baby is likely to die of SIDS. Don't rely on breathing (apnea) monitors, special mattresses, or other devices marketed as a way to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS. None of these items have been proven to lower the risk of SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not advise their use.
What are the symptoms?
SIDS has no symptoms or warning signs. Babies who die of SIDS seem healthy before being put to bed. They show no signs of struggle and are often found in the same position as when they were placed in the bed.
How is SIDS diagnosed?
SIDS is named the cause of death only when no other cause is found. To find out why a baby died, medical experts review the baby's and parents' medical histories, study the area where the baby died, and do an autopsy.
What can you do to reduce the risk of SIDS?
Although there is no definitive cure or preventative for SIDS, experts recommend a number of methods that may help minimize the risk:
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