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Sudden infant death syndrome, which is also known as SIDS, is the unexplained death of a healthy infant. Although it may not be possible to prevent all cases of SIDS, there are things caregivers and parents can do to reduce the risk. For example, not putting a baby to sleep on his stomach and not smoking around a baby can reduce the risk of SIDS.
The exact reason why some babies develop sudden infant death syndrome is not known, however, SIDS risks include low birth weight, premature birth, being overheated, and sleeping on the stomach. Preventing SIDS can start during pregnancy. Pregnant women should not smoke, as it increases SIDS risk. Caregivers and parents should also keep a baby’s environment smoke free. Babies who breathe in secondhand smoke are at a higher risk of SIDS deaths.
Most instances of SIDS occur when a baby is sleeping. Experts believe one of the most important things to do in preventing SIDS is putting a baby to sleep on her back. It is not entirely clear why this reduces the risk, but researchers believe it prevents babies from re-breathing their exhaled air, which contains carbon dioxide. Re-breathing her air increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the baby’s blood, which can become toxic.
Keep in mind, cribs are best for a baby. Adult beds are not meant for babies and may be too soft. In addition, sleeping in the same bed as your baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Not making the baby too warm is also important in preventing SIDS. Babies who are wrapped up in too many blankets may become overheated. Becoming overheated can interfere with a young baby’s respiratory drive.
It is important to remember SIDS deaths most often occur in babies less than six months old. Many babies six months and younger don’t have the ability to lift their heads off a bed or roll over. Babies should sleep on a firm surface without thick comforters or bedding. When bedding is too soft, the baby's face can get buried in it, which can lead to problems breathing.
Using a pacifier during sleep may also help in preventing SIDS. While the infant sleeps, using the pacifier may help keep the airway open. Another recommendation for preventing SIDS is breastfeeding. Babies who are breastfed die of SIDS less often than formula-fed babies. This may be because breastfed babies develop fewer respiratory infections, which increase SIDS risk.