Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: how a baby should sleep

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: how a baby should sleep 1

Putting a baby to sleep on the stomach especially during the first few months of life is a very common practice, the act is claimed to make the child more comfortable and sleep long which is a myth and could be very dangerous for the child as it increases the risk of SIDS.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS) which is also called Cot Death or Crib Death is defined as the sudden unexplained death of a seemingly health child of less than 1 year of age, the usually death occur when the babies are asleep . Globally SIDS resulted in about 22,000 deaths at 2010 with about 90 percent of cases happening before 6 months. It is the most common cause of death between one month and one year of age. Research have shown that the death usually occur around 00:00 and 9:00 and there is usually no noise or evidence of struggle.
The exact cause of SIDS is unknown but there are certain factors that put a child at risk, some of the factors include :
Physical Factors;
-Brain defect: some babies are born with certain brain problem which makes the part of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep not to function properly as a result of it not being completely developed.
-Low birth weight: any child that weigh below 2.5kg at birth is said to have a low birth weight, which is said to be common among babies born before 39 weeks. This increases the likelihood that a baby’s brain hasn’t matured completely which make such baby have less control over such autonomic processes as breathing and heart rate.
-Respiratory infection :many infant who died of SIDS are reported to have recently had a cold, which might contribute to breathing problems.
Sleep Environmental Factors;
The objects in baby’s cit or crib and his or her sleeping position could increase the risk of SIDS, some examples are:
-Sleeping on the stomach or side: babies placed in these positions to sleep might have difficulty breathing compared to when placed on their backs. Experts have said the most effective way of reducing the risk of SIDS is putting a child less than a year old on their back to sleep.
-Sleeping on a soft surface : when a baby is placed on a fluffy comforter/ bed they most likely turn face down slightly which could block a baby’s airways.
-Overheating: being too warm while sleeping could put a baby at risk of SIDS which is why proper sleeping cloth and cross ventilation is important in a place where infants stay.
-Sharing a bed: the risk of SIDS increases with a child sleeping on the same bed with parents, siblings or adult as we do not have control of what do while asleep and a person’s hand or any other part of the body could block a baby’s airways while rolling over during sleep.

  • Objects in the cot or crib: objects such as stuffed animals, pillows, fluffy toys should not be placed in a baby’s cot or crib as it could suffocate the baby while asleep.
    Research have shown that SIDS make up 80 percent of sudden and unexpected death of infants with the remaining 20 percent death caused by genetic disorder, infection and heart diseases.
    Here are some tips in preventing SIDS;
  • Place a baby to sleep on the back for the 1st year of life.
  • Keep the crib as bare as possible, no toys, pillows, stuffed animals.
  • Wear babies simple clothes like body suitor overall to sleep which will not require extra clothing.
  • Do not wear cap for babies to sleep.
  • Baby’s cot should be in the same room with the mother or at least very close to the mother’s bed, to make monitoring of the child easy.
  • Try as much as possible to avoid baby sleeping on the same bed with adults.
  • Ensure the baby’s bed is hard or at least not too fluffy to avoid suffocation.
  • Ensure bed covers for babies are well fitted.
  • Ensure the room which the baby is staying is cool to prevent overheating.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is encouraged as this will warrant the baby feeding like 2 to 3 times during the night which will give the mother opportunity to check on the child.
  • Ensure babies get immunized at the appropriate time.

About the Author

Akinlabi Bisola has a Bachelors degree in Health Education and Masters Degree in Public Health Education. She is the founder of The Health Educator's Library Consultant and a Trained and certified first aider. She is a Social Media for Health and Development Expert (GHEL) as well as a Health Communication Expert (GHEL).
She runs a podcast called THEC with Bisola and a website called

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