Thursday, November 14, 2013

How scary is SIDS?

SIDS has been on my mind lately.

Oh, SIDS...Literally every mama's worst nightmare.  This simple little acronym woke me from sleep, literally gasping for air because I thought my little one wasn't breathing.

When you are expecting, when you take your kiddo to the pediatrician, when you're in the hospital, frankly, when you're just thinking about having a kid, the topic on every tongue and plastered on every pediatrician's walls is SIDS.

So what is it and how scary is it?

SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Let's break this down a little bit to make it a little easier to understand.

SUDDEN--as in, no warning.  There have been few, if any, symptoms that can reliably predict SIDS.

INFANT--refers to babies less than one year.

DEATH--I think this one is obvious.

SYNDROME--A syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms or characteristics that are frequently observed together.

Here are a few quick facts on SIDS:

1.  It is the leading cause of death in infants aged 1 month to 1 year.

2.  It is the 3rd leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.

3.  The incidence of SIDS deaths has decreased by 50% since the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994.

4.  The incidence peaks between 2 and 4 months of age.

5.  The incidence of SIDS related deaths is 0.5 per 1000 live births.

If you ask me, all of that sounds pretty scary.  If you break it down to an elementary level, it basically means that sometimes babies die and we don't know why.  The best that organizations like the AAP and CDC can do is to make recommendations of things that negatively correlate with SIDS: interpretation, if you do a, b or c, the risk of SIDS goes down.  We'll get to that later.

Is it real?  I admit, I have had my doubts at times.  Our society is one that loves a good campaign, right?  Let me assure you, I have had the misfortune of seeing a SIDS baby, and hearing the cries of a mama of a SIDS baby.  It is real, and it is heart-breaking every. single. time.  HOWEVER...0.5 per 1000 equates to 1 per 2000.  I don't know about you, but I don't know anywhere close to 2000 babies.  In all practicality, most of us will never have a personal connection to a SIDS related death.

I am an admitted worrier.  Although Henry is almost 4 months old, I still listen to him breathing in the middle of the night, just to assure myself that he is still alive.  As a worrier, I am one that can be tempted to pursue anything and everything that could possibly help me avoid an unwanted outcome.

Example: prior to Henry's birth, we bought a fabulously cute crib bumper.  It is soft and fluffy, and perfectly plaid.  After Henry learned to roll onto his tummy, he loves to roll ALL OVER his crib.  After one day of constantly checking the baby monitor to make sure that his face wasn't shoved into the bumper leading to his untimely death, I sent my hubby for an emergency Target run to invest in a mesh, breathable crib bumper.  Hello cheap, ugly bumper, goodbye expensive, beautiful Pottery Barn Kids bumper.

Example: I still go back and forth on whether to continue to allow Henry to sleep in our bedroom.  He doesn't sleep IN our bed, he sleeps beside it in his own little bed.  All three of us are great sleepers, so none of us are missing out on this arrangement.  So far, we have decided to keep him there.

Example: I researched several apnea monitors that are currently on the market.  There are several, and I won't call out brands here, but the concept is a nice one.  Clip this little doo-dad to baby's diaper, or place this object under baby's back, and it can alert you if baby stops breathing/moving.  I drew the line in the sand here, simply because I think the risk of a false alarm outweighed the possible benefits.  I can just picture myself jumping out of bed due to a false alarm and going into turbo infant CPR mode.  Not a pleasant picture.

So we have implemented the following recommendations.  They are reasonable and easy to implement.  This list is directly from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  If you're interested in reading the whole article, you can do so here.

1.  Put your baby on their back to sleep, every time.
2.  Use a firm sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet.
3.  Room sharing, but not bed sharing, is recommended.
4.  Keep soft objects out of the crib.
5.  Pregnant mamas should go to the doctor for prenatal care.
6.  Avoid cigarette smoke exposure, both during and after pregnancy.
7.  Avoid alcohol and drug use, both during and after pregnancy.
8.  Breastfeed.
9.  Consider using a pacifier at naptime and bedtime.
10.  Avoid overheating.
11.  Immunize your baby.

That's the gist of the article.

At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that women have been having babies for centuries upon centuries without miracle devices and gadgets so that I don't drift into the realm of ridiculousness.  I toe the line between concerned, protective mama and full-out crazy lady sometimes, but these few measures help to keep me somewhat grounded.

Conclusion: SIDS is scary, but is also (relatively) rare.  Go with your gut, trust your instincts.  At the end of the day, a well-rested mama makes for a happy family, so choose whatever helps you sleep at night.

**Disclaimer: Although I am a medical professional, the above rantings and musings are my personal opinions as a mama, coupled with the suggestions of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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