Self-management

Coping and support

After losing a baby to SIDS, getting emotional support is critical. You might feel guilt as well as grief, and you'll be dealing with the mandatory police investigation into cause of death. You might find it comforting to talk to other parents whose lives have been touched by SIDS.

Ask your doctor to recommend a support group in your area or visit an online SIDS chat room. Talking to a trusted friend, counselor or clergy member can also help.

Communicate your feelings

If you can, let friends and family know how you're feeling. People want to help, but they might not know how to approach you.

Losing a child can put a terrible strain on a relationship, so be as open as possible with your spouse or partner. Counseling might help some couples understand and express their feelings.

Allow time for healing

Finally, give yourself time to grieve. Don't worry if you find yourself crying unexpectedly, if holidays and other celebratory times are especially difficult, or if you're tired and drained much of the time.

You're dealing with a devastating loss. Healing takes time.

Prevention

There's no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, but you can help your baby sleep more safely by following these tips:

  • Back to sleep. Place your baby to sleep on his or her back, rather than on the stomach or side, every time you — or anyone else — put the baby to sleep for the first year of life. This isn't necessary when your baby's awake or able to roll over both ways without help.

    Don't assume that others will place your baby to sleep in the correct position — insist on it. Advise sitters and child care providers not to use the stomach position to calm an upset baby.

  • Keep the crib as bare as possible. Use a firm mattress and avoid placing your baby on thick, fluffy padding, such as lambskin or a thick quilt. Don't leave pillows, fluffy toys or stuffed animals in the crib. These can interfere with breathing if your baby's face presses against them.
  • Don't overheat your baby. To keep your baby warm, try a sleep sack or other sleep clothing that doesn't require additional covers. Don't cover your baby's head.
  • Have your baby sleep in in your room. Ideally, your baby should sleep in your room with you, but alone in a crib, bassinet or other structure designed for infants, for at least six months, and, if possible, up to a year.

    Adult beds aren't safe for infants. A baby can become trapped and suffocate between the headboard slats, the space between the mattress and the bed frame, or the space between the mattress and the wall. A baby can also suffocate if a sleeping parent accidentally rolls over and covers the baby's nose and mouth.

  • Breast-feed your baby, if possible. Breast-feeding for at least six months lowers the risk of SIDS.
  • Don't use baby monitors and other commercial devices that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of monitors and other devices because of ineffectiveness and safety issues.
  • Offer a pacifier. Sucking on a pacifier without a strap or string at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS. One caveat — if you're breast-feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into a nursing routine.

    If your baby's not interested in the pacifier, don't force it. Try again another day. If the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth while he or she is sleeping, don't pop it back in.

  • Immunize your baby. There's no evidence that routine immunizations increase SIDS risk. Some evidence indicates immunizations can help prevent SIDS.
July 12, 2017
References
  1. About SIDS and safe infant sleep. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.
  2. Corwin MJ. Sudden infant death syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.
  3. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138:e20162938.
  4. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/. Accessed Feb. 28, 2017.