There’s no way to sugar coat it: SIDS is truly is a parent’s worst nightmare.
I remember worrying to the point where I got up several times a night to check on my first child while he was sleeping. I was exhausting myself, and finally I had to stop and come to terms with my fear. It is scary, but I realized I was doing everything I could to create a safe sleep environment so the rest was out of my control. I had to trust in the fact that I was providing the very safest sleep setup that I could and let the rest fall as it may.
My advice to parents is to do the same. Take the steps that we know can help prevent this terrible tragedy, and enjoy your time with your new baby instead of being consumed by fear of “what if?”.
What Is SIDS?
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy infant (usually between 1 and 6 months of age) during sleep with no medical explanation. SIDS is very rare, so when fear is taking over, remind yourself of this knowledge: Approximately 2,500 infants die of SIDS every year in the US, but with over four million babies born in the US in a year, true SIDS events accounts for 0.06% of infant deaths. Death rates have dropped by almost half since the Back to Sleep Campaign was launched in 1994 to inform parents of the importance of infants sleeping on their backs.
Many risk factors have been pinpointed, and fortunately there are things you can do to significantly reduce the chances of SIDS.
Does Bed-Sharing Increase the Risk?
There has been a lot of controversy about whether babies who sleep in bed with their parents are at greater risk of SIDS. There is some division on the subject, with the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and other agencies focused on the health of children being quite clear that the risk of SIDS is up to five times higher with bed-sharing, and a few popular anthropologists and psychologists claiming the opposite is true - that it is healthier for babies to bed-share with their parents, even though there are no peer-reviewed research studies that can back these claims and see replicated results in other studies that have tried.
I am a huge proponent of science-backed, evidence-based recommendations when it comes to making critical decisions for your child’s health and well-being. I believe the safest place for your baby is in their own crib or bassinet. I also believe this is best in order to encourage great independent sleep skills and set up healthy sleeping habits for your child.
At this time, the largest body of pediatric doctors and scientists say that there is no truly safe way to bed-share with your baby without significantly increasing their risk of suffering from infant sleep death, by cause of suffocation or entrapment. The studies and research into this topic is overwhelming in favor of safe sleep environment when the Safe Sleep ABCs are observed and followed: Alone, on their Back, in a Crib (or a bassinet or pack and play that has met CPSC’s safe sleep testing standards).
There is a Way to Co-Sleep Safely
One thing that parents can do that will enable them to practice the safe sleep ABCs and “co-sleep” with their baby is to room-share . Sharing a room with their baby, particularly for the first six months of life, has been determined to help reduce to risk of SIDS in conjunction with the safe sleep ABCs. One thing that parents should keep in mind is that if they decide to move their baby out of their room before the child is six months old, or not room share at all, that they are not increasing their child’s risk of SIDS, but merely brings them to the very low baseline that all infants are born into.
By making sure to practice and implement these preventative steps into your baby’s sleep environment, along with keeping in mind that SIDS is very rare, do your best to relax and trust that you’ve done all you can as a loving parent for your child. By preserving their need to have a safe and independent sleep environment, you are laying the beginnings of your baby’s foundation for healthy and independent sleep skills and habits.
If you want to discuss your baby’s sleep environment, or need help teaching your baby how to sleep independently in their own sleep space – schedule a call to discuss how Sleeping Littles can help you achieve your goal in having a great sleeper in their own bed.
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.