SIDS: Keeping Baby Safe

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is defined as the sudden death of an apparently healthy infant under 1 year of age, which remains unexplained after an autopsy, medical history review and death scene investigation.

There are approximately 2,500 SIDS deaths in the United States each year. The number of deaths has decreased in the last 30 years, largely because of risk reduction guidelines like the Back to Sleep campaign in the 1990s, but has plateaued in recent years.

The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but recent research points to chemical abnormalities in the brain stems of SIDS babies. The abnormality prevents the brain stem from responding to breathing challenges—for instance, if a baby is too close to another object and re-breathes his carbon dioxide. Babies without the brain stem malfunction are able to awaken during breathing difficulties.

Researchers have identified a number of factors that increase the risk for SIDS. As a result, risk reduction guidelines have been established. Following those guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS.

Cheryl Herzog Arneill, community educator at SIDS Resources, a not-for-profit network that provides educational services to Missouri-area residents and health care practitioners, says that practicing the ABCs of sleep are critical.

Babies need to sleep:

  • Alone
  • On their Back
  • In a Crib (or Pack ‘n Play)
  • Don’t smoke when pregnant or around the baby. Babies have three times the risk of SIDS when exposed to cigarette smoke.

What else can parents do to reduce their baby’s risk of SIDS?

  • Do not place pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or bumper pads in the crib. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using hanging mobiles or anything else that could fall into the crib.
  • Do not allow your baby to sleep–even for a short nap–on couches, adult beds, cushions or other soft places.
  • Do not use blankets or quilts to keep your baby warm; instead, dress him in appropriate clothing, such as sleep sacks or sleepers.
  • Don’t let your baby get too hot. Remove a layer of clothing or adjust the temperature in the room.
  • Breastfeed your baby if possible.
  • Consider using pacifiers during naptime/bedtime.
  • Do not use wedges or other positioning devices to keep your baby on his back. These are not proven to reduce the risk and might be a causative factor in SIDS-type deaths.
  • Place the baby’s crib in your room during the first few months. Room-sharing, without bed-sharing, reduces the risk of SIDS.

There are times when you must leave your infant in the care of someone else, whether it’s a daycare facility while you go to work or a family member or babysitter who watches your baby for a few hours while you run errands. It is crucial that anyone involved in the care of your child practices a safe sleep policy.

For more information, visit or call 816.569.6956.

Tisha Foley and her family make their home in Belton.


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