Why Does SIDS Peak at 2-4 Months?
Why Does SIDS Peak at 2-4 Months? Keep reading…
You’ve finally brought your little one home! Congratulations.
Once out of the hospital, you are on your own. Now unsupervised, without the well-meaning nurses instructing and assisting, most new parents start getting the jitters.
What if you do something that causes your baby harm or makes him uncomfortable?
Of all, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a parent’s worst nightmare. A survey of the recent statistics highlights that there has been a considerable drop in the number of infant deaths due to SIDS. However, it still remains a cause for concern with 1000 plus death each year, worldwide.
In trying to get to the bottom of SIDS, it has been observed that some infants are more vulnerable due to genetic and environmental factors. To add, infants in the age bracket of 2-4 months are at greater risk. This article gives you all the information you need on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The Mystery That is SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is a condition of sudden, unexplained death of infants, less than a year old. The cause of these deaths remain undetected even after a death scene investigation, autopsy or inquiry into medical history. SIDS is studied as part of a broader category called Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). This subset also includes unexpected infant deaths, the causes of which are ruled out later.
Most cases of SIDS have happened during sleep, and hence have earned it the moniker “crib death” or “cot death”. SIDS is unpredictable as no one has been able to put a finger on a single known cause.
Why does SIDS occur? It is associated with the body’s disability, more specifically the brain’s, to detect and inform about dipping oxygen’s levels or rising carbon dioxide levels. Whenever there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood, it stimulates the nerve cells in the brain. They, in turn relay signals to the arousal centers and the respiratory system, triggering them.
When this happens, the baby wakes up and adjusts his head to be able to better breathe. In case of SIDS babies, the brain fails to activate the arousal centres. So, the baby doesn’t wake up and often passes away due to a lack of oxygen.
The Risk Factors
There are several factors that put your baby at a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Some of them vary with age.
In most incidents of Sudden Infant Deaths, parents report having put a happy, healthy baby to sleep only to come back to an empty crib.
Hence, the strong association between SIDS and sleep habits and environment cannot be overlooked. Here are a few risk factors.
- Sleep Position. You can endanger your baby by putting him down on his stomach or side. Stomach sleeping results in babies breathing in stale air (air they have exhaled); extremely low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide. Sleeping in a prone position might also block airways, causing breathing difficulties. The absence of oxygen impairs brain function, which is a possible cause of death. Sleeping on the stomach may cause the body temperature to rise too, which is another risk factor for SIDS.
Many parents prefer to put their babies on their stomachs because they sleep deeper and longer; they do not wake up easily. But this sleep position can be a dangerous one as babies don’t wake up even if they stop breathing.
- Crowded Cribs. Blankets, bumpers, pillows and stuffed toys are a common sight in an infant’s crib. They also top the list as factors contributing to SIDS. These items crowd the crib and could cause suffocation.
- Soft Mattresses. Some cribs are fitted with spongy, extremely soft mattresses or water beds. These combined with sleeping on the stomach can impact breathing ability in infants.
- Co-Sleeping. Sharing a bed is also a major risk factor. There are several reasons for it. Infant bed-sharing could result in accidental suffocation, airway obstruction, rebreathing and overheating.
- A rise in body temperature can be dangerous too. It may happen due to a poorly-ventilated room, layering clothing, or co-sleeping.
A review of the recorded cases bring to the light the fact that the incidents of sudden, unexplained death are higher in boys than in girls.
While the cause is yet to be established, the percentage of deaths vary based on ethnicity. For instance, a higher number of infant deaths were reported in Black and Native American families than in the Whites.
- Brain abnormalities. The brain is central to various functions in the body. It controls heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, breathing and sleep-wake cycle. Some brain defects have a serious impact on breathing. It may also affect the arousal centres, thus preventing the brain from sending signals in event of distress.
- Low birth weight. Underweight babies are at an increased risk of SIDS too. Teen pregnancies, premature births, multiple gestation or poor maternal health could result in very low birth rate. Very low birth rate gives rise to several neonatal complications. The same is for preterm births due to underdeveloped body systems. The brain is the most affected, which impacts the baby’s ability to control vital body functions. This includes regulating heart rate and breathing.
- Respiratory issues. An underdeveloped respiratory system or a lung infection also contribute to breathing problems.
- Genetic predisposition. Some babies are genetically predisposed to SIDS. Thus, if you have a sibling or a relative who has passed away due to SIDS, you should be extra cautious.
Poor Lifestyle Habits
The mother’s health per-conception and during pregnancy also plays a vital role. Hence, making the right lifestyle choices is important. The following infants can be considered higher-risk:
- If the mother was very young, under 20 years of age.
- If the mother received poor prenatal care and pregnancy nutrition.
- If the expectant woman experiences pregnancy complications.
- Drug use, smoking or alcohol consumption during pregnancy before and after birth.
Secondhand smoke can also put your infant at risk.
Climate can also place your baby at a higher risk of sudden death. For instance, when the temperatures drop during the early spring and winter months, there are greater chances of fatalities.
Sids Peak at 2-4 months
Age is also a determining factor in SIDS. It peaks in newborns, those under 4 months of age. 90% of the SIDS-related deaths were in infants younger than 6 months of age. The reason for it is the underdeveloped body systems.
After 6 months of age the risk of SIDS declines. However, you need to take your precautions up to your child’s first birthday.
The above mentioned factors increase the likelihood of SIDS in infants. However, SIDS can affect any child, even an otherwise perfectly healthy one. Also, SIDS could be the effect of several factors combined, not just one.
You can start by rearranging your baby’s sleep environment and changing a few sleeping habits.
Sleep your baby on the back. It opens up the airways and helps them breathe better. They are also easily roused in this position. So, if they experience any discomfort, they can alert you of the same. Sleeping on the back will not cause your infant to choke on reflex.
Be vigilant at least during the first year. As babies reach the six months milestone, they start lifting their heads and turning on their own. If you notice your baby flipping on his tummy in his sleep, try to gently turn him without rousing him.
Swaddle your baby. After four months, there’s no stopping your little one. They start trying to turn over on their own. So, even if you’ve put them down on their back, they may flip on their tummy even before you’ve turned your back. Swaddling a baby recreates the close quarters of the womb and keeps them feeling safe and secure. The tight wrapping also discourages movements. Follow the proper instructions for swaddling.
Clear out your baby’s crib. Remove unnecessary items such as bumpers, blankets and toys from the baby’s sleep area. They are possible suffocation hazards.
Replace soft sleeping surfaces with firm ones in your baby’s crib. Ensure the bed sheets are spread and secured evenly. If you do use a blanket for your baby, secure it well. It should not move up during sleep and cover the face or mouth. Also, check the space between the crib and the mattress; it shouldn’t be more than two fingers.
Avoid infant bed-sharing. If you are worried, place your baby’s crib in your room. This way you can attend to them when needed. You can also look for a bassinet or crib that attaches to your bed. It becomes more convenient for night time feeds, especially for breastfeeding babies.
Check your baby’s body temperature. Signs to watch out for are skin flushing, skin that feels hot to touch and sweating. Dress your baby in light, breathable clothes. Keep the room well-ventilated.
Avoid smoking and drug use. Make healthy lifestyle choices. If you, your husband or any other family member smokes, try to reduce exposure. Smoking doubles the chances of SIDS.
If you are planning a baby, stop smoking or drinking long before you start trying. It will reduce the likelihood of SIDS after birth.
You should also try to get prenatal care at the right time.
Review your breastfeeding position. Many mothers sit in an upright position or on a chair or sofa when feeding the baby. Keep checking to see that your baby does not fall asleep when feeding as it could cause suffocation.
Breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of SIDS. Medical professionals recommend breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months after birth.
Schedule tummy-time. Experts have been recommending “sleep on the back” as the only safest position for children below 1 year of age. However, the arguments against it state that babies won’t develop upper body and muscle strength if they do not get adequate time on their bellies.
To make up for it, you can put your baby on his tummy for just a little while, under strict supervision.
You can also offer your baby a pacifier.
Speak to a Healthcare Provider
The fear of losing a child to SIDS is expected of every parent. You can reduce the odds with the right precautions:
Speak to a counselor at a children’s hospital. They will be able to guide you on the techniques to prevent deaths due to SIDS in children.
If you have a family member, relative or friend taking care of your child in your absence, don’t forget to insist on the SIDS precautions that will keep your little one safe.