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October is SIDS Awareness Month. Here's how to promote a safe sleeping environment for babies

Image is a screen capture from AAP's Safe Sleep campaign poster.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The AAP recommends having infants sleep in their parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants for at least the first six months of life.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby younger than one year old.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, SIDS remains as one of the top three causes for infant deaths in Oklahoma. Each year in the U.S. around 3,500 infants die of sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated recommendations to help further prevent infant sleep-related deaths. The update has information for things like “tummy time” - which helps babies with building muscles and reaching developmental milestones.

Other new recommendations include information about:

  • non-inclined sleep surfaces
  • short-term emergency sleep locations
  • use of cardboard boxes as a sleep location
  • bed sharing
  • substance use
  • home cardiorespiratory monitors 

OSDH Infant Safe Sleep Coordinator, James Craig, said the recommendations mostly were clarifications or expanded on the rules from 2016, but also provided guidelines for products that didn’t have much before.

“They [AAP] specifically say that any weighted sleep product — blankets, sleepers, sleep-sacks, swaddles — should not be placed on or near the sleeping infant,” Craig said.

The AAP recommends having infants sleep in their parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants for at least the first six months of life. Other ways to provide a safe sleeping environment include having babies sleep only wearing a onesie and wearable blanket without anything else, like blankets, loose sheets, pillows and toys.

The "Safe Sleep" OSDH webpage also shows some stark statistics: African American babies are more than two times as likely to die of SIDS as white babies. Also, American Indian/Alaskan Native babies are nearly three times as likely to die of SIDS as white babies.

Craig said there's hypothesis on why these statistics exist, but nothing for certain.

"When you see racial disparity, you always want to look at: well, where does this come from?" Craig said, "Are all groups getting the same level of education? Is the access to safe sleep environments the same?"

But Craig says that SIDS can still happen even if a parent is doing everything right.

“Unfortunately it can, and that’s why you want to reduce the risks we do know about,” Craig said. “Even in 2022, we have a lot of questions around exactly what is the cause.”

But for new parents who are just learning about providing a safe sleep environment, Craig said remembering a simple A-B-C acronym can help.

  • Alone: Babies should always sleep alone. 
  • Back: Babies should always sleep on their backs. 
  • Crib: Babies should always sleep in an appropriate crib. 

It is also recommended that babies sleep in a tobacco and vape free environment.

Because October is SIDS Awareness Month, there will be a series of information about SIDS risk prevention on the OSDH’s social media pages throughout the month. You can also visit the department's website for more information.

Kateleigh Mills is the Special Projects reporter for KOSU.
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