- SIDS is the number one cause of death for healthy infants under the age of one in Canada.
- Unsafe sleep is a key finding in many infant death investigations where the cause of death is undetermined.
- Between 2008-2012 there were 27 deaths of infants known to the Children’s Aid Society of London & Middlesex. Unsafe sleep was a factor in the deaths.
What is Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) and How Can it be Prevented?
The term Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant. These deaths often remain a mystery as there is often no definitive cause of death.
Studies have shown that important risks for reducing SIDS deaths include:
- Making your home a smoke-free environment,
- Putting your baby to bed on his back
- Breastfeeding your baby
- Adopting safe sleep practices.
For more information see:
The Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths – sidscanada.org
The Joint Statement on Safe Sleep to Prevent Sudden Infant Deaths in Canada – wphac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/stages-etapes/childhood-enfance_0-2/sids/jsss-ecss-eng.php
Reducing the Risk of SIDS
Reducing the risk of SIDS is possible by creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. Recommendations from the Canadian Pediatric Society for creating a safe sleep environment include:
- ALWAYS put your baby to sleep on their back and give them lots of time on their tummy when they are awake. When babies are able to turn over on their own, there is no need to force the baby into the back sleep position. Foam wedges or towel rolls to keep babies on their side should not be used.
- Make sure your baby isn’t too hot – Overheating in infants is linked to an increased risk of SIDS. Keep the room the baby sleeps in at a comfortable temperature between 16 and 20 degrees. Signs that a baby is overheated include: sweating, damp hair, heat rash, rapid breathing, restlessness and fever. Feel the baby’s tummy or neck to check temperature, and adjust clothing accordingly. Babies should be dressed in one piece sleepwear that is comfortable for the room temperature, so that a blanket is not necessary.
- Consider giving your baby a pacifier – Use of soothers appears to provide a protective effect against SIDS. Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bed time. Pacifier shields should be 1.5 inches in diameter and should be a single piece, without a cord. Infants who accept a pacifier should have one consistently at every sleep. If the infant is disinterested in the pacifier, it should not be forced. Pacifiers should be cleaned often and replaced regularly.
- Breastfeed your baby if possible – Breast milk contains antibodies and other immune factors that help the baby fight off illness better. Some studies suggest that breastfeeding provides a protective effect for SIDS. If you’re going to introduce a soother, do so after breastfeeding is well established.
Put your baby to sleep in an approved crib – The safest place for a baby to sleep is in an approved crib, cradle or bassinet for their appropriate developmental stage, placed on their back, and in their parent’s room for the first six months (Joint Statement on Safe Sleep, 2011).
Bed- Sharing or co-sleeping increases the risk of SIDS, and is not recommended especially if the person sharing the bed is:
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Excessively fatigued;
- A smoker;
- Is an adult other than the infant’s parent, or is a sibling or family pet sharing the bed.
- Ensure the crib, cradle or bassinet meets safety standards – Cribs, cradles, or bassinets should meet current Canadian Safety regulations. To make sure that the product is safe to use, check the Healthy Canadians website for recalls at http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/index-eng.php?cat=4 . Cribs made before September 1986 are unsafe.
- Don’t put your baby to sleep in anything other than a crib or bassinet – Infants should not be put to sleep in car seats, swings, bouncers, play pens or strollers as these are not safe for sleep. (Health Canada, 2011). Don’t leave an infant unattended in these products. Infant car seats are not designed to be used as cribs or for an extended amount of time. While sleeping, babies’ heads can fall forward and obstruct their airways, making it difficult for them to breathe. This puts them at risk for asphyxiation. On long trips in a car seat a baby should be checked every 20 min and an adult should sit in the back of the car with them.
- Don’t put anything in the baby’s crib – This includes pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, heavy blankets. Only if needed, use a thin, lightweight and breathable blanket. (Joint Statement on Safe Sleep, 2011) Nothing should ever cover a baby’s head.