Here are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on how to reduce the risk for SIDS and sleep-related deaths from birth to 1 year old:
• Have your baby immunized. An infant who is fully immunized may reduce his or her risk for SIDS.
• Breastfeed your baby. The AAP recommends breastmilk only for at least 6 months.
• Place your baby on their back for all sleep and naps until they are 1 year old. This can reduce the risk for SIDS, breathing in food or a foreign object (aspiration), and choking. Never place your baby on their side or stomach for sleep or naps. If your baby is awake, give your child time on their tummy as long as you are watching. This can reduce the chance that your child will develop a flat head.
• Always talk with your baby's healthcare provider before raising the head of the crib if your baby has been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux.
• Offer your baby a pacifier for sleeping or naps. If your baby is breastfeeding, don't use a pacifier until breastfeeding has been fully established.
• Use a firm mattress that is covered by a tightly fitted sheet. This can prevent gaps between the mattress and the sides of a crib, a play yard, or a bassinet. That can reduce the risk of the baby getting stuck between the mattress and the sides (entrapment). It can also reduce the risk of suffocation and SIDS.
• Share your room instead of your bed with your baby. Putting your baby in bed with you raises the risk for strangulation, suffocation, entrapment, and SIDS. Bed sharing is not recommended for twins or other multiples. The AAP recommends that infants sleep in the same room as their parents, close to their parents' bed. But babies should be in a separate bed or crib appropriate for infants. This sleeping arrangement is recommended ideally for the baby's first year. But it should at least be maintained for the first 6 months.
• Don't use infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings for routine sleep and daily naps. These may lead to blockage of an infant's airway or suffocation.
• Don't put infants on a couch or armchair for sleep. Sleeping on a couch or armchair puts the baby at a much higher risk of death, including SIDS.
• Don't use illegal drugs and alcohol, and don't smoke during pregnancy or after birth. Keep your baby away from others who are smoking and places where others smoke.
• Don't over bundle, overdress, or cover your baby's face or head. This will prevent them from getting overheated, reducing the risk for SIDS.
• Don't use loose bedding or soft objects (bumper pads, pillows, comforters, blankets) in your baby's crib or bassinet. This can help prevent suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, or SIDS.
• Don't use home cardiorespiratory monitors and commercial devices (wedges, positioners, and special mattresses) to help reduce the risk for SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths. These devices have never been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. In rare cases, they have caused infant deaths.
Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in places with no dangling cords, wires, or window coverings. This can reduce the risk for strangulation.
If you are concerned that your child may have symptoms or signs suggestive of sleep apnea, don't hesitate to speak with your pediatrician. If you feel like your concerns are being dismissed, consider a second opinion from a pediatric sleep specialist. The only way to definitely evaluate sleep apnea in children is an overnight attended sleep study at a testing center; push to get one if you are concerned for your child's breathing during sleep.
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