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A Primer on Preventing Sudden Infant Deaths
  • Posted April 1, 2023

A Primer on Preventing Sudden Infant Deaths

Sleep-related infant deaths are one of the leading causes of non-natural infant deaths, but a pediatric expert offers advice for keeping babies safe when they're sleeping.

"Sleep position and sleep environment are very important factors to look at when thinking about infant sleep safety,"said Angie Hayes, a clinical research associate in pediatrics and public health at Baylor University College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, both in Houston.

"There are a lot of factors that can impact this, so it's important for new parents to be knowledgeable about best practices for their babies," she said in a university news release.

The safest way for a baby to sleep is on his or her back, with the face pointing upward, Hayes advised.

An infant should not sleep on soft bedding or any surface that allows the baby to sink into the surface and roll over.

Do not place soft items around the infant or in the sleeping space. That means no blankets, toys or bumpers in the crib.

"The youngest infants have the least amount of control over their airway position, so if that gets compromised when they sleep, they may not know how to correct their positioning, leading to suffocation,"Hayes explained.

Bed-sharing is a large contributor to sleep-related infant death, according to Baylor.

"There are times when caretakers will sleep in the same bed as infants, but this can be dangerous. Don't share a bed or couch with infants when resting,"Hayes said. "Room sharing is a yes, bed-sharing is a no."

Hayes said housing stability is a key factor in sleep safety.

Natural disasters and economic events like recessions can displace families. This may lead to multiple people needing to share sleep surfaces in an unsafe manner, she explained.

Families of lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by these events, Hayes noted, and they have a higher risk of being placed in unfavorable environments for infant sleep safety.

Hayes stressed the importance of using the resources hospitals and other health care organizations provide on safe sleep. She also encouraged new parents to follow sleep safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), also called SIDS.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, March 29, 2023

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