Each year in the United States, thousands of babies die suddenly and unexpectedly. These deaths are called SUID, or sudden unexpected infant death. SUID includes all unexpected deaths: those without a clear cause, such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and those from a known cause, such as suffocation.
SIDS is the sudden unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old that doesn’t have a known cause even after complete investigation. SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies ages 1 month to 1 year. Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 1 and 4 months of age.
Sleep-related causes of infant death are those linked to how or where a baby sleeps or slept. They are due to accidental causes, such as suffocation; entrapment, when baby gets trapped between two objects, such as a mattress and wall, and can’t breathe; or strangulation, when something presses on or wraps around baby’s neck, blocking the airway. These are not SIDS.
Since 1995, there have been 16 sleep-related baby deaths for children younger than 1 year old in Liberty County. One is too many, and hopefully these safety tips will help reduce the risk and/or prevent another death.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has put out these safety tips for safe sleeping:
• Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than are babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
• Babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times, naps or at night. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs but who are placed on their stomachs to sleep are at very high risk of SIDS.
• Babies who sleep on a soft surface, such as an adult bed, or under a soft covering, such as a soft blanket or quilt, are more likely to die of SIDS or suffocation. Firm sleep surfaces can include safety approved cribs, bassinets, and portable play areas. Do not use a car seat, carrier, swing or similar product as a baby’s everyday sleep area. Never place a baby to sleep on soft surfaces such as a couch or sofa, pillows, quilts, sheepskins or blankets.
• Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair alone, with you or with anyone else. If you bring your baby to bed to feed, make sure to put him or her back in a separate sleep area, such as a safety-approved crib, bassinet or portable play area, in your room next to where you sleep when you are finished.
• Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins or crib bumpers anywhere in your baby’s sleep area. Evidence does not support using crib bumpers to prevent injury. In fact, crib bumpers can cause serious injuries and even death. Keeping them out of your baby’s sleep area is the best way to avoid these dangers.
• Give your baby a dry pacifier that is not attached to a string for naps and at night to reduce the risk of SIDS. Don’t force the baby to use a pacifier. If the pacifier falls out of baby’s mouth during sleep, there is no need to put the pacifier back in. Wait until baby is used to feeding before trying a pacifier.
• Don’t let your baby get too hot during sleep. Dress your baby in no more than one layer more of clothing than an adult would wear to be comfortable. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
• Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. These wedges, positioners and other products have not been tested for safety or effectiveness.
• Do not use home heart or breathing monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS.
• Give your baby plenty of tummy time when he or she is awake and when someone is watching. Supervised tummy time helps your baby’s neck, shoulder and arm muscles get stronger. It also helps to prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head. Holding your baby upright and limiting time in carriers and bouncers can also help prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head.
For more information on helping your baby sleep safely, visit the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov or come by the Hinesville Fire Department for fliers. For information on crib safety, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or www.cpsc.gov.
Johanson is deputy chief of the Hinesville Fire Department.