A Father's

SIDS Worries New Parents

Q: Dear Mr. Dad: We have a brand-new baby and I’m in a panic about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My mother-in-law tells me I should put the baby down to sleep on his stomach. But I’m pretty sure that I read that babies should sleep on their backs. Who’s right, and is there anything else I need to know about sleep safety?

A: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which affects otherwise healthy babies, is one of the scariest issues confronting new parents—and there’s good reason: Every year SIDS claims about 7,000 lives. It's the most common cause of death of children between one week and one year old, striking about one of every thousand babies. A lot of research has been done on the topic and the experts have determined that it’s possible for parents to reduce the chances of SIDS.

  • A few years ago, the “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched in response to SIDS. That catchy phrase is meant to remind parents to always put infants to sleep on their backs. Tell this to your mother-in-law.
  • Remove all soft items, such as blankets, comforters or toys from the crib. Babies don’t need—nor should they have—pillows.
  • The firmer the mattress the better.
  • Breastfeed.
  • Quit smoking.

As you probably suspected, SIDS isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when it comes to your baby and his sleeping environment. Here are a few more things to remember:

  • The newer the crib, the better. Cribs manufactured after 1985 should meet today’s safety standards (but check for a label on the crib that says so). For further information on safety regarding specific crib models, you can contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov
  • Make sure the crib is assembled properly and there are no missing or loose pieces.
  • Crib slats should be no wider than 2 3/8 inches (this prevents baby’s head from becoming stuck).
  • Remember the two-finger rule when it comes to mattresses. You should be able to stick no more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame (on any side). It should be a snug fit.
  • Attach crib bumpers to the frame to prevent injury if baby rolls up against the side of the crib. Make sure that all ties and strings are secure and there are no loose pieces that baby could choke on.
  • Remove bumpers and attachable mobiles from the crib when the baby is five months old to avoid use of these objects for dangerous climbing maneuvers.
  • Put baby to sleep in loose-fitting clothing with no attachments (ribbons, strings, etc.) Do not overheat baby.
  • Use a baby monitor so you can hear anything that goes on in the baby’s bedroom.

Now you know the basics—but don’t forget to pass your wisdom on to anyone else charged with caring for your baby!

©2007, Armin Brott

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It's clear that most American children suffer too much mother and too little father. - Gloria Steinem

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Blueprint for Men's Health: A guide to a health lifestyle, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner and Father for Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts “Positive Parenting”, a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com

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