BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — October is Safe Sleep Month. It's a time when pediatricians and health officials try to raise awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and offer parents some tools to make it less likely to happen to their baby. Around 3,500 infants die each year from sleep-related causes.
Experts say one of the causes of SIDS is that some babies aren't able to wake themselves up when their blood oxygen levels decrease and there's too much carbon dioxide in their system. SIDS isn't something that will show up on a lab or in a baby's bloodwork, and it can happen to any baby, including those who are perfectly healthy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than one third of the sudden, unexpected infant deaths that happen in the United States are attributable to SIDS. Most SIDS deaths happen to infants under six months of age, but can occur anytime during a baby's first year.
Pediatricians recommend removing items from the crib that might affect or block a baby's ability to breathe, like stuffed animals and blankets.
Dr. Rachel Moon with the American Academy of Pediatrics Task For on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, says it's also important to always lay a baby down flat on their back to sleep, whether for a nap or for the night.
"When babies are at an incline, it's actually harder for them to keep their airway straight. Their heads are really big and heavy for the size of their bodies, and so it takes a lot more work when they are at an angle than if they're flat on their back," said Dr. Moon. "When they are at an angle, they actually use more muscles in their head and neck area, they use more muscles in their abdominal area, and they can actually develop muscle fatigue, and that can actually be dangerous for them. So we don't recommend that babies sleep for a prolonged period of time on an inclined sleep product."
Moon says it's also important for nursing mothers to develop the habit of placing their babies back into their own cribs after a nighttime feeding. It may be tempting to keep the baby in bed with them, but it's also a risk that could lead to dangerous outcomes, such as accidentally crushing or smothering the baby.