If you find yourself bending over your sleeping baby listening for breath sounds or even rousing your little one to ensure he is still alive, you are in good company. There is without question no greater fear for parents than finding that their sleeping baby had died in his sleep. Sleep is our first separation from our baby and one that provokes anxiety for many.
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) also known as Cot/Crib death is still the leading cause of death in babies under a year of age in America. The same would not be true for developing countries where illness and social problems pose greater risks. But because cot death occurs for no good reason in perfectly healthy babies it becomes a fear we all face.
So are there simple ways to ensure your baby sleeps safely?
Safe covering – Do not use blankets, loose bedding soft objects in your baby’s crib. Soft materials or objects such as pillows, quilts, comforters, or sheepskins should not be placed under or over your baby whilst sleeping. The American Association Pediatrics recommends the “use of baby sleep sacks that are designed to keep your baby warm without the possible hazard of head covering”. The best way to ensure your baby is warm and comfortable when asleep, whilst remaining safe is to use a 100% cotton sleeping bag.
Sleep position – Place your baby on his back or side to sleep. If you place your baby on his side, use a wedge to ensure he cannot roll onto his tummy. Sleeping on the tummy is the biggest single factor associated with cot deaths.
Co-Sleeping – A separate but close sleeping environment is recommended. The risk of SIDS decreases when babies sleep in a separate cot/crib, in the same room as parents to allow for more convenient breastfeeding and contact. The risk of co-sleeping increases incrementally if you co-sleep on a sofa or after drinking any alcohol.
Room temperature – Avoid overheating your baby by keeping the bedroom temperature comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. 21° CelciUs or 70° Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for your baby’s room.
Other techniques – As the research into SIDs continues to be carried out, we discover other factors that may enhance sleep safety.
- Swaddling – Swaddle your young baby for sleeps to help him sleep well whilst on his back
- Sucking – Let your baby suck a dummy/ pacifier whilst sleeping
- Breastfeeding – Breastfed babies show a lower incidence of SIDS
Becoming a parent means that forever you will feel responsible for anther human being. But feeling responsible does not mean that you should be overwhelmed with anxiety. Do the best you can by following Safe Sleep advice and then try to relax and enjoy being a parent.