Tag Archives: SIDS

Baby Safety: The 2 Leading Causes of Death and How You Can Prevent Them

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Safe to Sleep® campaign, baby safety, SIDS

Image courtesy of the Safe to Sleep® campaign

Recently I was asked to speak at a childbirth education class at my local hospital. I love talking to expecting parents as it brings back my own memories of that time: the excitement, hopes, fears…My topic tonight was baby safety.  I want to share this information with you as well.

1- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and accidental suffocation is the leading cause of death in infants in the U.S. from 1 month to 1 year old.  Your child’s sleep environment is the most important thing you can control to keep your baby safe.  It is important that your baby always sleeps on her back on a firm surface with no crib bumpers, pillows (or breastfeeding pillows), sleep positioners or soft bedding. The safest place for your baby is in a crib that is in your room for the first 6 months. Breastfeeding is also associated with a lower risk of SIDS. If you choose to have your baby sleep in bed with you it is really important to keep in mind the risks and what makes a sleep surface safe.

Our first child was a really fussy baby and we did end up sleeping with her occasionally during her fussiest months (1-3 months). It is not something I recommend to others, but it was a decision we made out of desperation and with all of the risks in mind. We have a firm mattress (pillowtop removed), we slept with no pillows or blankets, and we placed her in the middle of a king size bed. This would have been especially dangerous if there were any other risk factors for SIDS (secondhand smoke, obesity, alcohol or drug use, or pain medications). We never let her sleep on her stomach and we never slept on a couch or chair with her. Sanity trumped absolute safety in our house, but we did our best.

For more information on SIDS prevention and safe sleeping please go to Safe to Sleep.

2- The leading cause of death in infants 1 month to 1 year worldwide is respiratory infections, including pneumonia and influenza. Thankfully in the U.S. we have free access to vaccinations. Unfortunately our vaccination rates in many areas of the country are below 90% and we can’t protect our infants unless everyone they are surrounded by is fully vaccinated. We also have access to clean water. Good hand washing can be very effective in reducing the spread of disease. Unfortunately not everyone (especially young children) does a great job of washing their hands after coughing, sneezing, wiping their noses, or using the restroom.

So what can you do to keep your baby safe from infection?

  • Remind people to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your baby.
  • Ask people who are sick to visit another time. The first sign of many illnesses that can be dangerous to your baby is just a clear runny nose (whooping cough, measles, RSV…).
  • Make sure anyone who is around your baby is fully vaccinated. This should include a yearly influenza shot and whooping cough (pertussis) booster.
  • Avoid crowded places for the first few months. If you have to go somewhere crowded try to keep your baby in an infant carrier or stroller with a blanket thrown over the top. Carry hand sanitizer and avoid anyone that looks like a grandma! She will want to touch your baby 🙂

For more information go to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)

So I am curious (and maybe neurotically overprotective based on my career choice): Do you ask your friends and family to stay away if they are sick? Do you ask them if they are vaccinated before they come visit your newborn? How do they react?


Is Swaddling Risky?

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SwaddleAs new parents we are always looking for ways to get through the toughest first months with our newborns. How can I get my baby to sleep better? How can I get my baby to stop crying? There are a million answers to these questions: gimmicks, gadgets, and folklore that promise to solve all of these normal baby problems. The bottom line always comes back to time. Give it time and your baby will develop the ability to soothe herself. Give it time and she will learn to fall asleep on her own. In the meantime how do we, as sleep deprived parents, manage to get through these months?

When my oldest was 5 weeks old and in the peak of her crying (and mine) and sleepless nights, we watched The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. His tips on soothing a crying baby gave us hope, and swaddling was the one recommendation that proved to be the most effective for us. It wasn’t that we were able to stop her from crying every time; what he gave us was another tool to put in our new baby survival toolbox. It was something to do. It was a glimmer of hope. It was not a cure for her crying every time, but it was a cure for our sanity. But….. is swaddling safe?

There have been numerous studies looking into the risks of swaddling. This is what we know today:

  • Swaddling does NOT increase the risk of SIDS when a baby is placed on his back to sleep. In fact two studies have shown a decreased risk of SIDS in babies swaddled when sleeping on their backs.1,2  It is important to stop swaddling him when he is able to roll over onto his stomach, because a baby swaddled in the prone position (face down) is at greater risk for suffocation or SIDS. Some babies can roll over on to their stomachs by 2 months of age.

  • Swaddling CAN increase your baby’s risk of hip dislocation or dysplasia IF done incorrectly. If you swaddle your baby correctly her legs should still be able to bend up and out at the hips. Click here for instructions on how to do a “Hip-Healthy Swaddle”.

  • Swaddling CAN comfort a crying baby and DOES help babies sleep. The key to swaddling is to keep his upper body secure. This will prevent his Moro or startle reflex from waking him up. It also mimics the snug and secure environment he had in the womb.

The bottom line: swaddling is a safe and incredibly useful way to comfort a baby and help her sleep. Just make sure you do it correctly and keep your baby’s sleep environment free of loose bedding, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, bags or pillows.

Do you have any tips that helped your baby stop crying or sleep better at night?


1  Factors potentiating the risk of sudden infant death syndrome associated with the prone position. Ponsonby AL, Dwyer T, Gibbons LE, Cochrane JA, Wang YG. N Engl J Med. 1993 Aug 5; 329(6):377-82.

2  Clothing and bedding and its relevance to sudden infant death syndrome: further results from the New Zealand Cot Death Study. Wilson CA, Taylor BJ, Laing RM, Williams SM, Mitchell EA. J Paediatr Child Health. 1994 Dec; 30(6):506-12.