Let's not fear, but understand SIDS
SIDS is sudden and unpredictable and it affects even seemingly healthy infants. Learn how you can keep your little one away from the risk
It was the third day after her normal delivery. Manisha was celebrating the birth of her son. Back home, a huge welcome was planned for mother and baby. She breastfed her infant and went for a shower leaving him in the safe custody of his grandmother. 15 minutes later, she returned to find her baby sleeping. And very still. 10 minutes later, he was declared dead, a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
“Although rare, death of a healthy infant with no apparent cause does occur. SIDS affects 1 out of every 1000 infants,” says Mumbai-based independent practitioner Dr Sakina Shyamwala.
SIDS usually takes place while a baby is asleep. This is the reason why it is also called ‘crib death’. It usually strikes infants under 4-months of age. “Most of the cases happen during night sleep. That is because it is the longest duration when you are not monitoring your infant. Cases of daytime crib death have also been registered,” says Dr Shyamwala.
The key point here is that SIDS is unpredictable. Medical sciences have not yet been able to get the pulse on why it happens and what can be done to prevent it with certainty. “Yes, we are still just throwing arrows in the dark. Hence every preventive measure you learn about is just an assumption. SIDS is just too sudden,” adds Dr Shyamwala.
The idea of one’s baby dying while asleep is enough to make any parent anxious. No known cause, no proven method of prevention – it’s like having not just an invincible opponent, but an invisible one, as well.
Experts say that SIDS may be purely biological, a sort of abnormality in the brain that disrupts the normal rhythm of the heart or flow and pressure of blood while the baby is in deep sleep. Nonetheless, even with these findings, it gives no assurance to parents that their babies will get past the critical SIDS stage.
Continue Reading to know how to prevent SIDS
Is there a cure for it? Sadly, no. There’s even no proven method of prevention.
However, Dr Shyamwala recommends some basic guidelines:
Eat right and stay healthy during pregnancy
Low birth weight (less than 1.5 kg) has been associated with SIDS more often that babies with normal birth weight. Also, smoking and drinking during pregnancy is detrimental to the baby’s development and can expose the infant to SIDS risk.
As is the case with SIDS, there is nothing to prove how it helps but one probable reason is that breastfed babies are stronger and more immune and hence have a better chance against SIDS.
Baby’s sleep area
“While most parents in India prefer co-sleeping, in with their infants, I always advise them against it. If we are not careful, we might press against the bay in our sleep putting him at danger,” says Dr Shyamwala. A crib or a cradle may be used instead. Also avoid any loose clothing, bedcovers or blankets close to the baby’s chest and face.
Babies who inhale second-hand cigarette smoke are at high-risk for SIDS.
Place the baby on his back
For the first 3 months, till your baby turns naturally, please place him on his back to sleep. Sleeping on the tummy is known to be potentially risky for the infant.
Maintain baby’s temperature
Make sure that you monitor your baby’s temperature. The hands and feet of your infant should never be either too hot or too cold. Preemies are at an extra risk because of this reason too. Not only are they underweight but also they are susceptible to low temperatures.
Avoid harmful medications and drinking while breastfeeding
This directly affects the child’s development and immunity.
Burp burp burp
Burp your baby. Even if you missed hearing that sound, place him upright for 10 minutes at least before putting him back horizontally. Not just SIDS, it could reduce the risk of aspiration as well.
SIDS is scary, yes, but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time with your baby. “It’s scary, of course. But let’s not get paranoid about the issue. Keeping in mind certain vital points should both make the first few months of parenthood safe and happy,” says Dr Shyamwala.
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