March 2016
SIDS Awareness
The thought of SIDS is one of the most terrifying things in the world to the parent of a newborn. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), also known as crib death, is the unexplained, sudden death of a child under one year of age. The death of an infant is already an epic tragedy. For the cause to be unknown adds additional pain and frustration to the issue. 

SIDS is, by definition, an inexplicable death, however, we DO know a lot about actions that create higher risks for it. 

Here are some of the things that will most significantly reduce infant risk:

Never place an infant on his/her stomach to sleep. 
The Safe to Sleep Campaign (formerly known as the Back to Sleep Campaign) began educating parents about safe sleep positioning in 1994. Within two years of its institution the US incidence of SIDS decreased by 40%. 1 Although "tummy time" is important for a child, this should not be done in a bed; they should be alert and never be left unattended. 

Do not smoke or expose your infant to smoke during your pregnancy.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, smoking is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants. 2 There is no shortage of studies showing correlations between elevated SIDS risk and smoke exposure. Examples include one performed by the Perinatal Epidemiological Unit in Denmark. In a study of 24,986 infants, those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were three times more likely to die of SIDS than those belonging to mothers who were smoke free. 3 In fact, the risk 
was directly correlated with the number of cigarettes the  mothers smoked. 
In another study focused on postnatal exposure, the danger of SIDS was significant in infants with smoking caretakers. 
If two caretakers smoked,  the risk was doubled. 4

Keep the crib free of frills, bumpers, blankets, and toys. 
The infant should never be placed in a sleep environment that provides the opportunity for anything to be against their face. The crib should have a fitted sheet over a firm mattress and the infant should be kept warm by their own clothing. It has been theorized that the presence of something close to an infant's face increases their carbon dioxide intake resulting in a SIDS death. However, many times a death has not been considered SIDS and was still related to these items. Asphyxiation has occurred via tangled sheets or an infant becoming wedged under a bumper.

The American SIDS Institute also warns against the overheating of an infant, sedation of an infant, and the sedation of a caretaker (decreasing response time to the infant). An infant should not sweat while they sleep. This is a sure sign that his/her environment is too hot. Alcohol intake and medications that might prevent caretaker arousal are firmly discouraged during the first year of life. 

Certain infants, such as those born prematurely, are at higher risk for SIDS. For a full list of the current guidelines and risk factors, please visit the American SIDS Institute link listed below.

Researchers are not sure exactly how these elements contribute to SIDS, and continue to do studies in order to better understand the mechanism. But, with the level of improvement seen in SIDS statistics since safe sleep initiatives have been introduced, we are headed in the right direction.

The following links provide more information on this topic:

Oklahoma State Department of Health: Free Materials & Resources

American SIDS Institute

Tulsa Health Department: Sleep Report

1. Gibson, Eric, et al. "Infant Sleep Position Practices 2 Years into the "back to Sleep" Campaign." Clinical Pediatrics 39.5 (2000): 285-9. Print.
2. Smoking and Pregnancy  Oklahoma State Department of Health. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
3. Wisborg, Kirsten, et al. "A Prospective Study of Smoking during Pregnancy and SIDS." Archives of Disease in Childhood 83.3 (2000): 203-6. ProQuest. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
4. Liebrechts-Akkerman, Germaine, et al. "Postnatal Parental Smoking: An Important Risk Factor For SIDS." European Journal Of Pediatrics 170.10 (2011): 1281-1291. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Mary C Kirk, MD, PLLC
6465 South Yale, Ste 605
Tulsa, OK  74136