Reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. Although deaths related to SIDS have decreased over the years, there’s still work to do to spread awareness for safe sleep practices and other risk factors.

Each year, there are about 3,400 sudden, unexpected infant deaths. This includes babies dying of unknown causes, accidental suffocation, and SIDS. “This is a healthy baby infant that went to sleep and didn’t wake up,” said Dr. Upender Munshi of Albany Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics.

Although the cause of SIDS is unknown, a combination of physical and sleep environmental factors can make an infant more vulnerable. “The crib has to have a firm mattress, fitted sheets, and no soft blankets or stuffed toys,” Dr. Munshi said. 

Until they’re 1 year old, always place a baby on their back on a firm flat surface to fall asleep. Having the bassinet or crib in the parents’ room is advised, but bed-sharing is not. “Sometimes, breastfeeding, your feeding baby goes to sleep and mom falls asleep. The moment you open your eyes just go and put the baby back.”

Babies who are fed breastmilk are at lower risk for SIDS and studies have also shown a correlation between pacifier use and a lower risk of SIDS. “Once breastfeeding is established, then the use of a pacifier after that has been shown to be protective,” Munshi said. “Those who use pacifiers are less likely to have obstruction.”

The physical risks include brain defects, low birth weight, and respiratory infection. During pregnancy, the mother also affects her baby’s risk. “Mothers who smoke, or use drugs or alcohol during pregnancy,” Munshi said. 

Dr. Munshi says nurses play an important role in educating caregivers on safe sleep practices, and these need to be communicated to anyone watching the baby in order to reduce the risk of tragedy. “I had just one case and that still stands, almost 25 years back, it still stands fresh in my memory at how the family was devastated,” he said. 

Dr. Munshi also says routine immunizations for your baby can be protective. And he says that while you always want to place a baby on their back, if they do roll over during the night, you don’t need to reposition them.

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