Decreasing the Risk of SIDS

I’d known Cori since she was 7 and I was 8, but standing in her
family’s living room one day, it occurred to me that, in some
respects, I didn’t know her at all. I guess when you grow up around
someone, you pretty much figure you have the whole story.
I’d known Cori since she was 7 and I was 8, but standing in her family’s living room one day, it occurred to me that, in some respects, I didn’t know her at all. I guess when you grow up around someone, you pretty much figure you have the whole story. But on this particular day, I realized I didn’t.

As I said, I was standing in the family living room, looking at the wall above their piano. The family had three daughters, and the wall displayed three cross-stitch samplers bearing their names. But as my eye settled on Cori’s, I noticed something I’d never seen in all the years we’d known each other: Hers had two names.

Cori, it turned out, was born a twin. Less than a year after she and her twin sister were born, her mother went into the nursery to check on the sleeping babes and found one of them dead in the crib. The loss was attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In the United States, SIDS is a rare but devastating phenomenon striking some 2,000 households each year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But that number, 2,000, represents hope. It’s proof that a decade of reminders is enough to change things.

Ten years ago, an average of 4,000 babies died of SIDS each year, but the death rate has slowly decreased in the last decade thanks to an increase of parental awareness and a simple recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 1992, the organization recommended parents stop putting their infants down for the night on their stomachs. This month, the group went further.

The AAP does not recommend laying babies on their sides to sleep anymore, either, because of results of new inquiries by the organization that suggest side-sleeping may make it easier for some infants to roll over onto their stomachs in the night, increasing their risk of SIDS.

Black babies and all babies under the care of nurseries are the most likely candidates to succumb to SIDS, the likelihood of which peaks when an infant is 2 to 6 months old. These death rates likely are higher because children are more likely to be put to sleep on their stomachs by black parents and day care workers, according to the academy panel.

Other new recommendations include offering infants pacifiers and using hard mattresses instead of pillows and comforters. It’s not clear why either of these items help, but it may be because they make babies lighter sleepers, according to John Kattwinkel, chair of the academy panel who authored the new policy and is a doctor at the University of Virginia.

The new policy recommends against parents forcing a child to take a pacifier or re-inserting the devices during sleep. They also shouldn’t coat them in sweet liquids or offer them to breast-feeding children younger than 1 month. Parents should let their infants sleep in a separate bed near to their own, though.

So, if you’re rocking a little one to sleep tonight, make sure they sleep a lot safer and a little less sound.

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