ST. LOUIS – Nearly 3,500 babies under the age of 1 will die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But the acronym SIDS has been updated to include SUID or Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, which defines death without a clear cause.
Half of all SUID cases are SIDS, which is death from a known cause like suffocation. Many unexpected infant deaths are accidents, but a disease or something done on purpose can also cause a baby to die suddenly and unexpectedly.
Sleep-related infant deaths are those linked to how or where a baby sleeps or slept. Typically, these deaths are avoidable and are related to suffocation that causes the baby to not be able to breathe such as blankets or obstructions in their sleeping area, entrapment when the baby gets trapped between two objects or strangulation when something presses on or wraps around the baby’s neck, block the baby’s airway. These deaths fall under SUID.
Lori Winkler, an injury prevention nurse at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and the SSM Health hospitals, dedicates much of her time to education about safe sleep. She works with new parents, grandparents and caregivers to educate on the newest safe sleep practices.
“I followed all of the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of the NICHD, all of their safe sleep recommendations. But guess what? I had bumper pads, I had blankets, I had everything. And times have changed,” she said. “And so now what they’re finding is most of those deaths that they had referred to as SIDS really and truthfully were preventable.”
Winkler notes that the usual way for your newborn baby to breathe is through their nose; they are obligatory nasal breathers. Young babies do not develop the reflex to breathe through their mouths until they are 3 or 4 months old.
Winkler says her classes educate on the ABCs of sleep.
“Babies always sleep alone, on their backs, on a firm surface, and in their own safe sleep environment, like a crib or bassinet,” she said.
She advises using a fitted sheet and a firm sleeping surface. All objects should be removed from the crib or bassinet, such as pillows, blankets, toys and bumper pads. In fact, Lori says that traditional swaddling blankets can be a hazard. She encourages new parents, grandparents and caregivers to use designated sleep swaddling sacks that cannot become loose enough to cover a baby’s nostrils.
She also says cribs are best, especially those newer than July 2011. Tired parents may be tempted to put their infant in their own bed, but co-sleeping is the cause of many suffocation deaths. She says to keep the baby’s bed, bassinet, or portable crib in the same room where you sleep (for the first year). She also warns that pacifiers should not be attached to a string for naps or at night.
To learn more about Safe Sleep for infants or to take a class, click here.
The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on KPLR News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.