Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
As the name implies, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or "SIDS", is the unexpected and sudden death of an infant under one year of age. According to the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants between 2 to 4 months of age. While most SIDS cases occur without warning or explanation, studies suggest other factors may play a part in some infant deaths.
Causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Researchers have studied SIDS for more than twenty years to help determine the causes of SIDS related death. Although there is no definitive answer as to what causes SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that an infant's sleep environment, genetics, and sleep position plays a significant role in the number of deaths each year. For instance, babies who are placed to sleep on their stomachs or sides have a higher incident of SIDS than those who are placed on their backs to sleep. In addition, African American babies are twice as likely -- and American Indian/Alaska Native babies are three times as likely -- to die of SIDS as white babies.
Moreover, other factors which have been linked to SIDS-related "crib death" include: (1) defective products and recalled baby items (such as defective bed cords, "sleep positioners", and soft bedding), (2) exposure to toxic chemicals, (3) vaccines, and (4) most recently, infant's brain chemical serotonin levels and parents and caregivers alcohol consumption, among others.
Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
In response to a growing number of SIDS cases, the AAP initiated the "Back to Sleep" Campaign in 1992 to help reduce the number of unexplained deaths associated with SIDS and other sleep related causes of death. As a result of the study, AAP recommends that infants be laid to sleep on their backs, as opposed to a side or "tummy" position. Other organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have also issued warnings and recommendations to parents and caregivers to help reduce SIDS-related, such as (1) using a firm sleep surface, (2) keeping soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib, and (3) using cribs that conform to the CPSC safety standards, among other things.
FDA & CPSC Warnings & Tips
Below are some of the warnings issued by organizations involved in children's health concerning Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Infant Sleep Positioners May Pose Suffocation Risk -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents and caregivers not to put babies to sleep using sleep positioning products. There are concerns relating to infant suffocation stemming from at least 12 known deaths associated with these products.
Soft Bedding Under Infants May Cause Suffocation Risk -- The CPSC recommends that soft bedding should not be placed in cribs, or under infants, regardless of sleep position because of the potential for it to block an infant's breathing passageway.
Place Infants to Sleep on Their Backs -- The CPSC, AAP, and NIH recommend placing infants to sleep on their backs during sleep times. Parents should advise caregivers, daycares, grandparents, and babysitters to help comply with this warning.
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