There’s no way to sugar coat it: Sudden Instant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a parent’s worst nightmare.
I remember worrying to the point where I was waking up several times a night to check on my son while he was sleeping. I was exhausting myself. Eventually I had to sit down and come to terms with my fear. It’s scary, but I also had to tell myself that I was doing everything I could to create a safe environment for my baby, so the rest was out of my hands. I had to let it go.
My advice to other parents out there is to do exactly the same. Take the steps that we all know can help prevent this terrible tragedy, and then get on with your life and enjoy your time with your new baby instead of being consumed by fear.
What is SIDS?
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy infant (usually between 1 and 6 months) during sleep with no medical explanation. SIDS is rare, so when the fear is overwhelming you, try and remind yourself of this fact. Approximately 200 infants die of SIDS every year in the UK, and less than 1 in 1000 in the GCC, but keep in mind just how many babies are born every year. Death rates have dropped by almost half since the Safe to Sleep Campaign was launched in 1994 in the US to inform parents of the importance of infants sleeping on their backs.
Many risk factors have been pinpointed as part of the campaign, and fortunately there are things you can do to significantly reduce the chances of SIDS:
-Have a healthy pregnancy. One of the risks can be premature birth and low birth weight, and while these are not always preventable, having a healthy diet and getting good prenatal care can help.
-Don’t allow smoking around your baby. One of the most significant risk factors for SIDS is exposure to cigarette smoke both before and after birth. Studies have shown that when babies breathe cigarette smoke, their risk of SIDS doubles.
-Put your baby to sleep on his back. This is extremely important, as researchers have discovered that this cuts the risk by almost 50%.
-Breastfeed your baby if you can. Although researchers aren’t sure why, SIDS rates tend to be lower in breastfed babies.
-Provide a safe sleeping environment. Avoid putting your baby to sleep on soft surfaces they can sink into such as beanbags, soft bedding, or couches.
Does Co-Sleeping increase the risk of SIDS?
There has been a lot of controversy about whether babies who sleep in bed with their parents are at greater risk of SIDS. Experts are somewhat divided on the subject, with some claiming the risk is up to five times higher with co-sleeping and others claiming the opposite is true, and that, in fact, babies are safer sleeping with their parents.
Personally, I believe the safest place for your baby is in his or her own crib or bassinet. I also believe this is best to encourage great independent sleep skills and set up healthy sleeping habits for your child. However, if you do plan to co-sleep, please make sure you do it properly. Avoid having piles of blankets and soft pillows around your baby and make sure you never sleep with your baby when you have been using drugs or alcohol.
Take these preventative steps and try to keep in mind that SIDS is rare so you can relax, enjoy parenthood, and get some worry-free sleep at night!
If you are currently Co-Sleeping and this arrangement is not working for you, your spouse or both, then please feel free to reach out to me for advice. Although the thought of bed-sharing with our children can sound lovely, many parents find the reality is often quite different! Little people can move around a lot and be very noisy during their sleep. So if you are waking up exhausted please know I’m here to help you.