How many times, in the first months of your baby’s life, did you wake up to see if your baby was breathing? How many times have you checked that it was placed in the right position? How many times have you taken away his favorite stuffed animal because you were afraid he wasn’t breathing well? White death, or cot death, is one of the biggest fears for a mother. In some cases the newborn, apparently healthy with no signs of illness during sleep (both day and night, both in the cradle and in the stroller) suddenly stops breathing.
Most SIDS deaths, or white deaths, occur during the first 6 months of a baby’s life. Babies born prematurely or with a low birth weight are at increased risk. SIDS also tends to be slightly more common in boys. (60%)
Crib death usually occurs when a baby sleeps, although it can occasionally happen while awake.
Parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking during pregnancy or after the baby is born and by always putting it on their back when they sleep.
From the studies carried out it has been highlighted that the factors that increase the SIDS risk are of different nature, from respiratory tract infections, to physical stress, to changes due to irregular heart rhythms and sleep.
Experts believe that SIDS occurs at a particular stage in a child’s development and affects children who are vulnerable to certain environmental stresses.
This vulnerability can be caused by premature birth or low birth weight or other reasons that have not yet been identified.
Environmental stresses could include tobacco smoke, getting caught in bedding, a minor illness, or a respiratory obstruction. There is also an association between sleeping together and SIDS.
Babies dying from SIDS are believed to have problems in how they respond to these stresses and how they regulate their heart rate, breathing, and temperature.
Although the cause of SIDS is not fully understood, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk.
There are no national data on the incidence of the phenomenon, in the absence of a homogeneous survey system; in Italy, in the past, it was calculated in the order of 1-1.5 ‰ of live births, but it is currently in sharp decline for the greatest attention in putting infants to sleep in the supine position. It is now estimated at around 0.5%, or 250 new SIDS cases / year.
SIDS is only a post-mortem diagnosis. Since it occurs in sleep, much attention has been paid to the study of sleep. Causing cot death in newborns may be a problem with some neurotransmitters that prevent the baby from waking up in dangerous situations such as when they are getting too little oxygen. This is stated in a study published by the journal Pediatrics, which emphasizes how essential it is to follow the rules for putting to bed to avoid dangerous situations.
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed brain samples from 71 babies who died of presumed Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) between 1995 and 2008, both put to sleep in conditions considered unsafe, for example. face down, both fall asleep in safe positions. In all cases, alterations were found in the levels of some neurotransmitters, from serotonin to the so-called Gaba receptors. “These substances control breathing, heart rhythm, pressure and temperature – explain the authors – and in this case prevent children from waking up if they breathe too much. carbon dioxide or the body becomes too hot. The rules for a correct going to bed therefore remain fundamental, to avoid putting the children in situations at risk of suffocation from which they are unable to defend themselves “
In fact, SIDS can be prevented with behavioral rules:
1. Let the baby sleep on his back: to reduce the risk of SIDS – an official document from the American Society of Pediatricians recommends – babies must be put to sleep on their backs whenever they sleep. Sleeping on the side is not safe and is not recommended.
2. Let the baby sleep on firm mattresses, do not use pillows, blankets, duvets at least up to 6 months of life.
3. Get the baby to sleep in his bed (not in bed with parents or siblings)
4. Let the baby sleep in your room at least for the first 6 months: having the baby sleep in the same room as the parents for the first year of life, or at least for the first six months, reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%.
5. Keep soft objects out of the baby’s bed
6. Do not over-cover the baby during sleep (ideal room temperature 18-20 ° C). If he has a fever he should not be covered any more.
7. Don’t smoke before and after the birth of the child, do not smoke in the presence of the child, do not allow others to do so, do not let the child stay in rooms where he has smoked.
8. Have him use the pacifier while he sleeps
9. Breastfeed the baby: Many studies have documented a protective effect of breastfeeding with respect to the risk of SIDS. In particular, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is recommended, but mixed breastfeeding also appears to have a protective effect, albeit minor.
10. Yes to vaccines. The idea that some vaccinations may carry the risk of SIDS is a hoax. On the contrary, some studies show a protective effect of childhood vaccinations against SIDS.
Article sources: childrenshospital.org, NHS, Sant’Andrea Hospital, Salute.Gov.it