Protecting infants from SIDS

Published: Oct. 3, 2018 at 6:26 PM CDT
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October marks National SIDS Awareness Month and local health officials are sharing tips to help parents and caretakers of infants reduce the risk.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome claims thousands of infant lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials say in Wisconsin hundreds of infants have died from SIDS or other sleep-related deaths in recent years. Health officials say three out of five mothers sometimes share their bed with their baby, Two in five leave loose bedding or soft objects in the baby's sleep area, and some place their baby on its side or stomach to sleep. These are all habits linked to SIDS.

"SIDS is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The highest prevalence is from birth to about six months but it could be up to 12 months," said Teresa Demoe, Registered Nurse at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep of an otherwise healthy baby. Nurse Demoe, who works in the hospital’s Women and Infants Center, says the cause of SIDS is often not discovered even when it happens. Health officials say it could be associated with defects in the portion of an infant's brain that controls breathing during sleep. An exact cause however is still unknown...

There are now devices allowing a baby's heart rate, oxygen intake, and sleep trends to be monitored right from home

Some say these devices can help parents respond sooner if something goes wrong. Brand names such as the “Smart Sock” monitor data from the baby and deliver it via an app. Those devices typically run around $300 retail value.

While there is new technology to help prevent the possibility of SIDS Demoe still recommends traditional methods of prevention. “Technology, it can be useful but we don’t want it to be a false reassurance," she said. She adds the best tip is to simply create a safe sleep environment.

"Safe sleep environment would be their own sleep area,” said Demoe. She discourages parent from having an infant sleep in bed with them. She says even if you aren’t the parent of an infant, understanding SIDS can help decrease the risk.

"Everyone needs to know about SIDS and the awareness of SIDS and safe sleep because everyone is going to be exposed to infants and small children and if you're ever responsible for that, knowing how you should interact with them whether they're sleeping or awake," said Demoe.

While occurrences of SIDS in the U.S. have decreased by 50 percent during the last 20 years, it still remains the leading cause of death for U.S. infants.

Nurse Demoe says educating anyone who comes in contact with an infant on safe sleep practices decreases the risk of SIDS by more than 40 percent.