Risks for SIDS change as babies grow: Are you prepared?

July 24, 2014—If you’re a parent or grandparent, you’ve likely heard of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Safe sleep practices can reduce the risk. And now a study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that the risk factors an infant faces can change over that first year of the child’s life.

Researchers found that most younger infants—those under 4 months old—who died unexpectedly while sleeping had been sharing a bed with an adult or sleeping on one. As infants develop, additional risk factors may increase in significance, the researchers suggested. In particular, after age 4 months, infants may roll over into bedding, stuffed toys or other potentially hazardous things as they sleep—which highlights the importance of removing such objects from a baby’s bed.

About the study

Researchers examined more than 8,000 reports of sleep-related infant deaths. They compared the sleep environments of babies younger than 4 months to those of babies 4 months to 364 days old to see if any risk factors were more prominent at different ages.

Among the findings:

  • Overall, about 69 percent of babies were sleeping with a person or animal when they died. This was more common among younger infants (73.8 percent versus 58.9 percent).
  • Younger babies were also more likely to be sleeping in an adult bed (rather than a crib, bassinet or playpen) or in the arms or on the chest of another person when they died.
  • More older infants had changed position while asleep, and these babies were found lying on their bellies with things like pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. Many of these babies may have rolled into the objects and suffocated, the authors noted.

Read the study abstract here.

The take-home message
Bed sharing is an unsafe sleep practice—particularly for infants younger than 4 months. These babies lack the ability and strength to move away if, for example, someone rolls on them. Your baby might enjoy sleeping close to you, but he or she really should have a separate sleeping area.

Your baby should sleep stomach-side up on a firm crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet. That bed should also be free of all objects, including pillows, fluffy toys and loose blankets. These items might seem comforting, but they clearly can be hazardous for sleepers who roll into them.

In addition to brushing up on sleep safety, keeping a baby really safe also means checking your house for hazards. See this article for tips on how you can do just that.


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