During the winter months, it is natural for us to want to turn up the heat and throw an extra blanket on the bed. While this can be a good idea for parents, it is not for infants.
Although overall rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have declined more than 50 percent over the last two decades, colder months tend to have more cases of SIDS. The cause of SIDS is still unknown, but one of the theories behind the increase during the winter is that parents bundle sleeping infants, often putting in an extra blanket on top which can then be a hazard. Any extra blankets, toys or pillows in the crib can increase the risk of SIDS. It is better to dress the infant in a head to toe jumper so he stays warm but there is minimal danger.
For children under the age of 1, SIDS is the third leading cause of death—behind congenital malformations and low birth weight—but there are some steps that can be taken to help prevent SIDS at bedtime:
- Always place your baby on his back to sleep. Tummy time should be limited to only times when the infant is awake and supervised.
- Use a firm crib mattress with a fitted sheet.
- Do not put anything in the crib with your infant. This includes toys and soft blankets.
- Dress your child in light clothing to avoid overheating, but make sure he is warm enough without a blanket. A warm zip-up jumper is a good option.
- Giving your infant a clean, dry pacifier can also lower the risk of SIDS.
Not every preventative measure occurs around bedtime. Standard immunizations can cut the risk of SIDS in half. It is also important to never smoke around your baby as this can lead to an increase in risk.
There is a wide range of emotions that come along with the birth of a child, ranging from fear to sheer joy. While SIDS is an obvious fear, following the steps outlined above can help make sure there are more moments of joy with your newborn through these next few cold months and beyond.