SIDS Awareness Month
October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month
As summer ends and fall begins, we celebrate the lives and cherish the memories of the thousands of babies who die each year suddenly & unexpectedly. The baby dying of SIDS is typically 2 – 4 months of age, apparently healthy, smiling, & cooing. The parent places the infant to sleep and wakes up to a nightmare….the loss of their precious baby. According to the CDC, this scenario repeats itself about 4,000 times each year in our country – or almost 11 times a day. It is estimated that 100 individuals are directly impacted by every baby loss. SIDS crosses all social, economic, and racial barriers, striking suddenly and silently, claiming its small victims during sleep. The tragedy of SIDS is a sub-category of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) and is defined as the sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history. According to the CDC, SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants 1 – 12 months of age and is the third leading cause overall of infant mortality in the United States. With implementation of the “Back to Sleep” campaign in the ‘90s, the rate of SIDS deaths has decreased from 1.25/1000 live births when the Southwest SIDS Research Institute was founded in 1984, to 0.5/1000 live births in the early 2000s.
Tragically, we are seeing a deadly trend from another sub-category of sudden unexpected infant death: the incidence of accidental suffocation/ co-sleeping deaths has quadrupled since the 80’s. The practice of co-sleeping has been rising and infants are dying in increasing numbers when sleeping with their parents or caretakers. A co-sleeping baby death occurs in Texas every 2 days. Words cannot adequately describe the impact on these families when they realize that their very desire to cuddle and sleep with their infant contributed to their baby’s loss. These deaths, occurring in unsafe sleep environments, are potentially preventable.
As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has expanded its recommendations from “…being only SIDS-focused to focusing on a safe sleep environment that can reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths including SIDS.” Their recommendations include supine (back) positioning, use of a firm sleep surface, breastfeeding, room-sharing without bed-sharing, routine immunization, consideration of a pacifier, and avoidance of soft bedding (ie bumper pads, blankets, stuffed animals), overheating, and exposure to tobacco smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs. The AAP found insufficient evidence to recommend any bed-sharing situation in the hospital or at home as safe. “Policy Statement—Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment” PEDIATRICS Vol. 128 No. 5 November 1, 2011 pp. e1341 – e1367.
The Southwest SIDS Research Institute, a 501(C)(3) United Way agency, was founded 30 years ago to end unexpected infant mortality through education, support, medical services and research. Programs are offered on a sliding scale basis or free of charge. Through the A.C.C.E.S.S. (All Children Can Enjoy Safe Sleep) Program, qualifying families may obtain a free Pack ‘N Play so that they can provide a safe sleep environment for their new baby. Infant CPR classes are now being offered. We also have a free speaker’s bureau.
The Institute is sponsoring Rex’s Walk/Run in San Antonio on November 15th at Wheatley Heights Sports Complex Stadium. This event is being held in memory of Rex Neal Van de Putte, who died of SIDS last May at the age of 5 months. Funds raised will be used to expand safe sleep educational services.