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5 ways to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 2,000 infants died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. This sudden medical condition results in the unexplained death of seemingly perfectly healthy children, usually under the age of 1 year old, in their sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reported that this risk is greatest from about two to three months, but both younger and older infants are at risk.
Though a clear cause of SIDS has yet to be determined, research has shown multiple preventive measures that can decrease the risk. As a care provider, you should practice the following steps to reduce the risk of SIDS in the infants in your charge:
1. Opt for back sleeping
The Back to Sleep campaign - which promoted putting infants to sleep on their back - is commonly attributed as a key reason for the reduction of SIDS deaths since the early 1990s. According to Mayo Clinic, babies who sleep on their stomach or side have greater difficulty breathing, which can contribute to SIDS.
2. Check the sleep accessories
Though putting an infant down to sleep on his or her back is important, tummy sleeping is not the only hazard around nap time. The place that you put the child down to sleep also matters. Soft surfaces, like plush comforters, can block the airway. Make sure to put the child in a crib with a firm mattress and remove any blankets or other items in the sleeping area before nap time.
3. Monitor the room environment
Overheating is another risk factor for SIDS. If you notice that the child is sweating, turn down the thermostat. If you're worried that the baby will be too cold, use a swaddle as opposed to a loose blanket which could become wrapped around the child and suffocate him or her.
4. Plan supervised tummy time
Though you want the baby to sleep on his or her back, that doesn't mean that babies should never be placed on their stomach. Supervised tummy time while the infant is awake is an important part of building strong muscles in the neck. The American SIDS Institute recommended tummy time as a way to decrease the risk of SIDS.
5. Educate parents
If necessary, you may need to educate the parents or guardians of the children that you care for regarding the risks of SIDS in order to protect the children when they are not in your care.