Health Watch: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - eliminating risk factors

Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 4:56 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the leading cause of death for U.S. infants from one month to one year old, according to Foundation Health Partners.

SIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is a type of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) which, in 2018, applies to about 1300 deaths nationwide. The CDC shows that Alaska is among the five states with the highest SUID rates in the U.S.

According to Ann Branville-Davis, Senior Nursing Manager of the Natal Intensive Care Unit at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is an, “unexplained infant death in a child under one year of age associated with being found in a sleep position.”

Branville-Davis explained that SIDS is a catch-all term for the unexplained deaths of infants from one month to one year old. After case investigations into cause have been concluded, those deaths whose causes cannot be determined belong in the SIDS category.

While cause cannot be conclusively determined, certain factors have been found to be associated with SIDS, and certain behaviors known to decrease the risk of a SIDS-related death, including breastfeeding, placing the infant on their back to sleep and providing a firm mattress.

Factors associated with increased risk for SIDS include sleeping face-down, sleeping on soft mattresses or with soft blankets or surrounded by stuffed animals. Branvillle-Davis also mentioned co-sleeping with an adult or older child, or living in a smoking environment as factors.

She mentioned that in these cases, there is a “decreased exchange of air that has led to the cause of death.”

“The children that they have found in these situations are more likely to be found face down in soft cribs, co-sleeping with adults that were under the influence of alcohol or other substances, and so these are all factors that they are trying to teach people to not put your infant in those situations, to decrease the risk of this tragedy,” she said.

Branville-Davis went on to say, “One of the things that we have learned is that overdressing and over-swaddling is not good. That you should have a light sleeper on your baby, and we use sleep sacks here in the hospital, and we give those to our parents when they have their babies to try and enforce that and teach them that less tight swaddling is better.”

For more information, Branville-Davis recommends talking to a pediatrician or contacting the Tanana Valley Clinic.

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