A new fact sheet describing the risk factors for SIDS is now available
from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
SIDS, sometimes known as crib death, is the sudden and unexplained death
of an infant under one year of age that strikes nearly 4,000 babies in
the United States every year.
While the causes of SIDS are still unclear and it is currently impossible
to predict which infants might fall victim, research shows that the simple
strategy of placing babies on their backs to sleep can help to reduce the
risk of SIDS.
The "Back to Sleep" public-private health education campaign, led by the
NICHD, has successfully reached parents of new babies about the importance
of back sleeping. Prior to the 1992 recommendation by the American Academy
of Pediatrics (AAP) to place babies on their backs and the initiation of
the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, nearly 70% of babies were sleeping
on their stomachs. Today, only about 25% of babies are stomach sleeping.
Recently, there has been interest in the concept that bed sharing between
a mother and baby could reduce the risk of SIDS. Studies had shown that
bed sharing altered and synchronized their sleep patterns, leading to
speculation that this practice could possibly reduce the risk. While
bed sharing may have certain benefits, such as encouraging breast feeding,
the AAP's Task Force on Infant Positioning and SIDS reported in the August
issue of Pediatrics that no scientific studies to date demonstrate that bed
sharing reduces the risk of SIDS.
The new SIDS fact sheet contains other tips for reducing the risk of SIDS,
including placing the baby to sleep on a firm mattress and removing fluffy
pillows or stuffed animals from the crib. Evidence from various research
studies suggests that soft bedding may cause infants in the prone position
(stomach sleeping) to rebreathe exhaled air and suffocate.
The fact sheet is available on the "Back to Sleep" homepage at
http://www.nih.gov/nichd/docs/news/SIDS_HP_2/home1B.html or by calling 301-496-5133.
Other "Back to Sleep" publications and materials, including a brochure for
parents (available in both English and Spanish), a brochure for health-care
professionals, "Back to Sleep" reminder crib stickers, take-home cards to
distribute in hospitals and maternity clinics, posters, and a parent training
videotape (available in both English and Spanish) can be obtained by calling
toll-free, 1-800-505-CRIB, or writing to: NICHD/Back to Sleep, 31 Center Drive,
Room 2A32, Bethesda, MD 20892-2425.
The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical
research arm of the Federal government. Since its inception in 1962,
the Institute has become a world leader in promoting research on
reproductive biology, including fertility regulation, and population
issues; development before and after birth; maternal, child and family
health; and medical rehabilitation.