Sudden infant death syndrome: New guidelines for prevention

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Sudden infant death syndrome: New guidelines for prevention

Question

I've heard about new guidelines for preventing sudden infant death syndrome. Should babies still sleep on their backs?

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Answer

Yes. Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep. This is the best way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a devastating condition that causes an otherwise healthy baby to die in his or her sleep.

Despite a reassuring drop in the number of SIDS deaths since parents were first encouraged to put babies to sleep on their backs, sudden infant death syndrome is still a major health threat during infancy. In fact, after the first month of life, sudden infant death syndrome is the leading cause of infant death in the United States.

To address this risk, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new recommendations for preventing SIDS in October 2005 — including specific recommendations about hotly debated issues such as pacifier use and the family bed.

Here's a recap of the new guidelines:

  • Put your baby to sleep on his or her back. Side sleeping is no longer considered safe.
  • Use a firm sleep surface. Leave bumper pads, stuffed animals and other soft materials out of the crib or bassinet.
  • Don't sleep with your baby. It's OK to bring your baby into your bed for nursing or comforting — but return your baby to the crib or bassinet when you're ready to sleep.
  • Keep your baby close by. Consider keeping your baby's crib or bassinet in your room at first.
  • Offer a pacifier. Sucking on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS. One caveat — if you're breast-feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 1 month old and you've settled into a comfortable nursing routine.
  • Dress your baby lightly for sleep. Bundling your baby too heavily may lead to overheating.
  • Avoid products claimed to help prevent SIDS. There's no evidence that home monitors are effective, and positioning devices haven't been fully tested for safety.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. Don't smoke when you're pregnant, and don't expose your baby to secondhand smoke.
  • Prevent flat spots on your baby's head. Hold your baby when he or she is awake. With close supervision, place your baby on his or her tummy to play. When you place your baby on his or her back to sleep, alternate the direction your baby's head faces.

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