Safe Sleep and SIDS Awareness Month: What parents need to know

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COLORADO SPRINGS — The cooler the weather, the more we bundle up, but Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs says that’s risky for newborns. 

“One aspect in particular that comes up this time of year is overheating,” said Sue Townsend, MD, attending neonatologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3,500 infants die each year from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, with 40-percent being from Sudden Infant Death.

“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is when they’ve done a complete investigation and there no cause that can possibly be found. Unexpected Infant Death, sometimes we find causes, and some of that is preventable,” Townsend said. 

Those causes can include overheating, asphyxiation, strangulation, and suffocation, from being in the bed with their parents. 

Children’s Colorado says compared to other states, Colorado has a relatively low rate of SIDS, about 57.9 cases per 100,000 live births, which is the fifth-lowest SIDS rate in the country.  

October is known as Safe Sleep and SIDS Awareness Month, so the hospital is working to spread awareness.

“The highest risk is really in the first six months of life. Once babies are able to roll from front to back and back to front, the risks go down a little bit,” Townsend said. 

For the past few decades, experts have said to put babies to sleep on their backs.

“If you put a baby on his or her back to sleep, that will help them stay safe and they won’t choke, they have good airway protective mechanisms, so it’s very safe,” Townsend said. 

Newer recommendations released in the past few years have been focused on the sleep environment.

“A firm, flat surface, avoiding soft bedding, and other recommendations like that; like not overheating baked, not putting hats or blankets around them,”  Townsend said. 

Instead, experts say to put babies in a sleep sack or sleepwear to help avoid anything cover their face, and have them sleep in their own crib.  

“They used to put bumpers around the baby’s bed, and it turns out that, that was to prevent babies from falling through the different crib slots. But now, cribs are designed so that the spacing is smaller between the slots, and the bumpers are unnecessary and actually can pose a suffocation hazard or a strangulation hazard,” Townsend said. 

Click here for a list of recommendations and tips from Children’s Colorado. 

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