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March 12, 2014 – Almost every caretaker knows the rules of putting a baby to sleep; babies should sleep alone, on their back, and in a crib. But at 2:30 AM, with a wailing infant in your arms, the right choice can be harder to make. Choosing to disregard one of these rules can be a horrible mistake. In 2010, 59 children under the age of 1 died in car accidents. This is extremely sad for those 59 children, but a real testament to how safe and secure we keep our kids in motor vehicles. On the other hand, 3610 children under the age of 1 died of SUID, or sudden unexpected infant death. Of this, about half of the incidents were due to SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. As the father of a 7-month-old, this topic is very important to me.

As a dentist, one of the areas I focus on is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is where your airway becomes blocked periodically throughout the night and you literally suffocate for periods of time. This sounds unhealthy, and it is. You can learn more about obstructive sleep apnea here. So, why am I bringing this up? Because there is a very strong correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and SIDS. Some have suggested that SIDS is obstructive sleep apnea in babies. As I mentioned, OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, meaning you, or in this case your baby, cannot breathe. You already know you must have a constant supply of oxygen to survive, and in the case of OSA, you are not getting it. OSA can be inherited, meaning if you or even your child’s grandparents have obstructive sleep apnea, your baby will most likely be at higher risk of having SIDS. The name of the game is keeping an open airway, and here are some common errors we make for our baby’s sleep.

#1: Making the Crib Too Comfy
The vast majority of parents put something in the crib with their baby. Be it a blanket, a bumper, or a pillow, all these objects have the ability to suffocate your baby. Just one item can increase your baby’s chances by five times, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). But many parents are OK with putting things in the crib with their baby. Often you can read a magazine or walk through a store and see displays that look inviting but can be a hazard to kids. Some states and cities have even created laws making it illegal to show such displays or sell crib bumpers.

#2: Not Going Back
Always put your baby on her when she is going to sleep. Always. Many babies are less fussy in other positions, but the safest position is on their back. In fact, most kids do have a harder time sleeping on their back. Some research suggests this is actually their way of preventing SIDS or the obstruction from occurring. Some parents assume that putting a child on his stomach will decrease the risk of choking on regurgitation. While it is possible in any position, because of our anatomy it is actually LESS likely when a baby is on their back. So “back to bed.”

#3: Sharing is good, but not the bed or couch
Many parents like to share the bed with baby. They do this because it’s easier, especially for feedings, and the baby tends to sleep better. But half of all suffocations occur in a shared bed. Also, the risk of SIDS increases almost 40 times in a shared bed. That’s a staggering statistic. Many parents also like napping on the couch with their baby. A couch is even more dangerous than the bed because it’s smaller and it’s easier for him to become trapped in pillows. A baby must sleep in her own crib, without any objects and on her back.

We all love the children in our lives. Sleep makes us all happier, and getting a good night’s sleep can be very difficult to do. There is a lot of research that indicates a baby must sleep on their back. It’s not always the easy thing to do, but you already know that being a parent or caregiver is not an easy job. Suffocation and obstructed airways in children are a very real problem, more common than car accidents, and we can all take steps to help minimize the risk of SIDS in St. Augustine.

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