Did you know experts worldwide think most Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other infant sleep-related deaths are preventable? Here in the U.S. we have one of the highest rates, with nearly 3,700 deaths a year—that’s an average of 10 babies a day!
More than 20 years of SIDS research shows there many practical things parents and other caregivers can do to help prevent these deaths. One of the most simple is practicing the ABCs of safe sleep. In my hospital, we tell parents “If you remember nothing else, remember the ABCs”:
A for Alone
B for Back
C for Crib
“Alone” means alone. Babies need their own separate sleep area, ideally in your room but not in your bed or with you. This is called room-sharing; research shows room-sharing reduces the risks of SIDS by 50% while offering many of the same benefits as bed-sharing.
“Back” means baby needs to be positioned for sleep flat on his back, never on his tummy or side. Don’t worry; babies don’t choke more on their backs, not even the “spitty” ones. This single strategy is the most important in preventing SIDS.
“Crib” means a safety-approved crib, basinet or playard with a firm mattress covered in a tight-fitting sheet and nothing else but baby. No loose or fluffy items, bumpers, or stuffed animals.
Breastfeeding, pacifiers (after nursing is going well), infant immunizations, and well-baby checks all help protect against SIDS. Never allow your baby to become too hot (baby is sweaty in his clothes), and never smoke, drink alcohol or take illegal drugs around your baby.
You may faithfully put baby to sleep on his back but do others caring for your infant do the same? Unaccustomed stomach sleeping is when a baby who normally sleeps on his back is placed on his stomach or side to sleep. This bumps up baby’s risk for SIDS by 7-8 times! These deaths usually happen under the care of a child care provider, friend or grandparent who doesn’t know the ABC’s of safe sleep. Share our ABC’s of Safe Infant Sleep card with all caregivers and put a copy near baby’s bed as an ongoing reminder.
Can every case of SIDS be prevented? Probably not, but practicing the ABC’s of safe sleep gives peace of mind that you’ve done everything possible to reduce your baby’s SIDS risks.