Sleep Tips can Prevent Infant Death
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed, Apr. 05, 2006
By Jim Carpenter, M.D., MPH
FEW TRAGEDIES are more heartrending than the sudden unexpected death of an infant. For example, parents lovingly put their healthy infant to sleep, only to find their precious baby dead in the morning, for no apparent reason.
We have about a dozen infant deaths each year in Contra Costa County, divided between SIDS and co-sleeping deaths. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation and autopsy.
In California, 175 children died of SIDS in 2003, the leading cause of death of infants between 1 month and 1 year old. The majority of these were associated with unsafe sleeping practices.
Co-sleeping is when the parents share their bed or couch with their infant children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports at least 515 infant and toddler deaths in the United States from co-sleeping between 1990-1997.
For this reason, many child health experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend against co-sleeping.
The cause of SIDS is unknown, but there are ways to minimize the risk.
Co-sleeping or bedsharing can lead to smothering and suffocation. It's safer to place the infant in an approved crib or bassinet next to the bed, allowing parents to be nearby, but avoiding the hazards of co-sleeping.
If you choose to sleep with your infant, against medical experts' recommendations, do not smoke, nor use alcohol or drugs that can deepen your sleep. In particular, never co-sleep on a couch, because its softness and shape can lead to suffocation.
For more information on safe sleeping tips for infants, call the Contra Costa SIDS Program at 925-313-6254 or visit cchealth.org/topics/sids.
Carpenter is a pediatrician at Contra Costa Health Centers in Richmond and Martinez, and chair of the Contra Costa Child Death Review Team. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.