October is SIDS (Sudden Infant Deaths) awareness month. It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, National Bullying Prevention Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and on and on and on. With so many causes to acknowledge during the month of October why should you care about SIDS and SUID? You should care because sudden unexpected infant death is a leading cause of death for babies aged 1 to 12 months. According to the CDC, 3,600 babies die due to SIDS/SUID annually in the U.S. Let that sink in for a moment. 76% of infant deaths have no cause and their parents and family will always have the pain of the loss, and the guilt of wondering what they could have done differently.
SUID is short for Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths, and it’s nothing new. Depending on your generation you may know it as ‘crib death’ or ‘cot death.’ It’s the umbrella term that houses SIDS, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed and unknown causes.
A parent can do everything right and still have a baby die from SIDS or unknown cause. We don’t know what can cause a seemingly healthy baby to die in their sleep. Although it’s not definitive; there are several SIDS researchers and an abundance of evidence that suggest that SIDS deaths are related to a mix of a brain abnormality and unsafe sleeping environmental factors. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed and outlined more than 15 recommendations that parents and caregivers can use to eliminate some of the unsafe sleeping environmental factors.
Some of the most important recommendations are that babies should sleep on their backs every time they sleep. Infants should be placed in their own sleeping environment with nothing in it except a firm flat surface and a fitted sheet. . Parents should avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth, avoid exposing the infant to smoke, and overheating. Infants should sleep in their own space in the parents’ room for the first year, minimally for the first 6 months. All recommendations should be followed from birth until the baby’s first birthday.
Educating parents about SUID has taught me that some parents do not always take the SUID recommendations seriously, and unfortunately, this has led to a steady increase in SUID. I am aware now more than ever, that there is ultimately nothing I can present to a parent that can persuade them to follow all the recommendations all the time. By 6 months that child has usually slept in an adult bed, been placed to sleep on their back, or with stuff animals and other unsafe items.
We should all support our family and friends by reminding them of the ABC’s of safe sleep. Babies should be put to sleep alone, on their back and in a crib with only a firm mattress and fitted sheet in it until their first birthday. For the month of October we all should take a moment to acknowledge the millions of infant lives that have been lost to SUID. We should take a moment to recognize the hurt, grief and strength of the families that have lost a child. Although most of us have not experienced this there are many mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, sisters, brothers and neighbors that have been effected by SUID.
Resources for Safe Sleep: