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Winter Raises SIDS Risk

Parents of newborns have to be on highest alert during the winter against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS,

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay. The risk increases during the cold months, she says.

SIDS is when an infant suddenly stops breathing while asleep and dies. The cause isn't known, Senay says, but there are several ways to reduce the risk, such as putting an infant to sleep on the back instead of the stomach.

Death rates have declined dramatically in this country as awareness has grown, but SIDS is still the leading cause of death for infants between a month and a year old. There are 2,500 deaths each year.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is worried about an increase in the number of deaths during cold winter months.

They say some reasons could be extra blankets, clothing or heating that parents and caregivers give infants to keep them warm. Added bedding may raise the risk of SIDS if it obstructs breathing. Extra clothing and turning up the heat can also be potentially dangerous because overheating a baby increases the risk of SIDS.

Parents can take several steps to lower the odds, Senay explains: Don't put too many layers of clothing or blankets on infants, or keep room temperatures too warm. If a blanket is used, place it no higher than the baby's chest and tuck it in, under the crib mattress. The room temperature should be kept at a level that feels comfortable for an adult.

Updated SIDS guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics include all the important advice, Senay says:

Infants should be placed on their backs to sleep, not on their stomachs or sides. Sleeping on the side increases the risk of rolling over onto the stomach. Babies should sleep on a firm crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet with no soft, cushy bedding or toys that might interfere with breathing. Don't smoke: It can raise the risk of SIDS before a baby's birth and after. Don't overheat the baby's sleeping room. Sleep in a separate, but nearby location. Consider using a pacifier at naptime and bedtime throughout the first year of life after breastfeeding is firmly established.
A recent study underscored the SIDS risk of sleeping on a sofa with a baby. The guidelines emphasize that babies shouldn't be put to sleep in the same bed with adults or other children, or sleep with an adult or other child on a couch or armchair.

Recommendations also include encouraging "tummy time," when the baby is awake and someone is watching, avoiding too much stroller and car seat time, and varying a baby's direction in sleep position from left to right, to avoid the development of flat areas on the head, which have been linked to an increased risk of SIDS.

Make sure other people in the household who care for a baby are aware of SIDS recommendations. Don't rely on home monitors and devices marketed to help prevent SIDS, because they haven't been proven effective.

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