The sight of seeing their infants slumber should be a sweet respite for mothers and caregivers, yet it is actually a time to be on alert. Sadly, families lose 2,000 infants annually in the United States due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between the ages of one and 12 months old, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
October has been dedicated as SIDS Awareness Month to help families and caregivers understand the risks and help prevent tragedies. At MOMS Orange County, a nonprofit organization serving low-income pregnant women for more than 20 years, we are teaching new mothers ways to reduce the risks of SIDS as part of our after-birth care, by focusing on helping families to create safe sleep environments at home.
How Can We Reduce the Risk of SIDS?
Although we don’t know the exact cause of SIDS, we do know ways to reduce the risk. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) shares these recommended steps:
- Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night.
- Use a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet. See crib safety information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission for more information.
- Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you or with anyone else.
- Keep soft objects, toys and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
- Give your baby a dry pacifier that is not attached to a string for naps and at night.
- Do not let your baby get too hot during sleep.
- Breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding has many benefits to both mother and baby, and some may be surprised to learn reducing the risk of SIDS is on the list of reasons why we encourage breastfeeding at MOMS Orange County. We advocate breastfeeding for the general health of the baby too, and hold breastfeeding education and support groups for mothers and families to learn more. Also, as part of prenatal programming, at MOMS Orange County we also promote smoking cessation to reduce the risks of SIDS.
By promoting Awareness Month in October, we can help educate families to make informed decisions to reduce the risks of SIDS in their homes. And with prenatal and after-birth education, we see families developing healthy habits to minimize the likelihood of SIDS.
With over 38 years of experience in maternal/child health, Pamela Pimentel, RN, CEO of MOMS Orange County, is an expert when it comes to mothers and babies. Since 2000, Pimentel has led MOMS Orange County in helping at-risk mothers and their families have healthy babies through the nonprofit’s services of providing access to prenatal care, health screenings, infant development screenings, health education and referral services through monthly home visits and group classes. Among her many awards and accolades, she has been honored as March of Dimes Nursing Executive of the Year, as the National Latina Business Woman Leader of the Year, and with Senator Lou Correa’s “Women Making a Difference” Award. To learn more about Pimentel and MOMS Orange County, visit www.momsorangecounty.org.