Crib safety is vital to the health, growth, and development of infants. Unsafe sleeping conditions can cause suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment, and about 3,500 babies die each year of sudden unexpected infant death, or SUID. Many of these deaths are due to suffocation and strangulation, and many more are due to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
The sudden, unexplained death of an infant under the age of one is often attributed to SIDS, and there are an estimated 2,300 cases of this each year in the United States. Research suggests that SIDS occurs when a baby’s body has difficulty regulating breathing, heart functions, or body temperature because of a problem in the parts of the brain controlling those activities. SIDS is currently the leading cause of death among infants less than one year old and the third leading cause of death among all infants. While there is much that remains unknown about SIDS, research has indicated that there are several ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
Tips for Reducing the Risk of SIDS or Other Sleep-Related Deaths
- Infants should sleep in the same room as their parents but in a separate crib or bassinet. Bed sharing is the greatest risk factor for sleep-related infant deaths and should be avoided. Room sharing, however, can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.
- Infants should be placed on their backs for sleeping. Tummy time should only occur during waking hours and under the direct supervision of a parent or other responsible adult. Infants who sleep on their stomachs are up to twelve times as likely to suffer from SIDS.
- Cribs should be kept bare. Parents should avoid placing bumper pads, soft bedding, blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals in the crib with an infant. Loose bedding can cause strangulation and has been linked to SIDS.
- Cribs should never be placed near windows with blinds or curtain cords as babies can get entangled and strangle on those cords.
- Cribs older than ten years or broken or modified cribs should never be used. Infants may become entrapped or strangle due to loose or broken parts.
- Babies should be dressed in sleep clothes that are fitted and light. Clothing that is too loose can ride up over the baby’s face and cause suffocation, and clothing that is too heavy can cause overheating, which is a risk factor for SIDS.
- Infants should never be exposed to smoke, either during pregnancy or after birth. Studies have shown that the chemicals found in second-hand spoke can interfere with the brain’s regulation of an infant’s sleeping.
- Parents should consider giving their infants a pacifier at sleep time. A recent study suggested that pacifier use could reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 90%.
The Decline of SUID Rates
Crib safety is crucial for a healthy, thriving, rested infant. The SUID mortality rate has decreased significantly over recent years. In fact, the SIDS rate is less than half of what it was 20 years ago, and it should continue to decline over time as greater awareness is brought to the condition and safe sleeping guidelines are made more readily available to new parents.