Deciding on how to sleep your baby matters with either how comfortable it is for you and for your little one, or how you just want to be near with your precious baby, all the time. Most moms prefer sleeping on the same bed with their babies, and some sleep with their babies in a position where the babies lay in them. As wonderful as this may feel for the mothers, this is not safe at all. This is often referred to many terms namely co-sleeping, bed sharing, and the family bed.
Most moms are opting to do co-sleeping as this is what is convenient for her and the baby most especially when they are breastfeeding their little ones to sleep. However, no matter how comfortable this may get for both the mom and the baby, this position has proven to be one of the many possible causes to the increased risk of SIDS.
SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome is the phenomenon used to call the sudden passing or death of an infant which are aged a year below from an unknown cause. SIDS, no matter how thorough researches have been made, remains unpredictable with its main cause. However, certain factors are under investigation and somewhat explains why a baby could have a sudden infant death syndrome. More facts about SIDS include that this symptom is the leading cause of death of babies’ ages one month to one year old. Also, the risk of the syndrome can be minimized by avoiding factors that are found to be major contributors to the syndrome. These factors include placing babies on their stomachs or sides, or sleeping your babies in your chest with their stomachs or sides, and maternal smoking.
SIDS usually happens during the sleeping hours of your babies and yours too. This is the reason why sudden death infant syndrome is also referred to as “crib death”. When SIDS has chances of occurring to babies even during the first year of their lives, the syndrome usually occurs on babies ages two to four months while your babies sleeping pattern is still under development. Also, common occurrence of sudden death infant syndrome is during months of cold weather. Around ninety percent of these deaths are from the population of infants up to six months old.
Now, why does SIDS happen?
SIDS happens because of no particular reason but instead there are few factors of the reason for its occurrence which have been found out through studies. The risk is heavily increased because of these factors:
- When the baby is too vulnerable. For instance, a premature infant or a baby exposed to maternal smoking while they are inside the womb. Aside from that, when paternal smoking is also present when the baby is born, second hand smoke during these times is also associated to an increased risk of SIDS.
- Increased risk of SIDS is also present when there is a developmental instability such as when sleep patterns are maturing.
- Sleeping position is also a factor. When babies are being placed on their stomachs or when you sleep them on your chest. These babies, who are thought to have immature breathing reflexes results to failure to wake up from sleep and also results to death. Aside from sleeping on the stomach, side sleeping may also increase the risk of SIDS. One theory states that sleeping on the stomach increases the chances of the infant to re-breathe his or her own exhaled breath. Mattresses that are soft, loose or plush bedding, a stuffed toy, or a pillow can lead to a small pocket of air around the baby’s mouth that traps the air exhaled by the baby which is high in carbon dioxide. When the exhaled air s breathed back by the baby, the amount of carbon dioxide in the latter’s blood rises and the oxygen levels fall thus, a possible contribution to SIDS. It is normal for people to wake up with rising carbon dioxide and falling oxygen levels however, infants with SIDS may have an abnormality in the part of the brain that should wake them up. Also, sleeping on the stomach puts pressure on the infant’s jaw resulting in the narrowing of the baby’s airway.
- Bed sharing is also a factor that increases risk of sudden infant death syndrome. It is a sleeping method in which babies share the same sleeping space with another person. Be sharing with an adult who has abnormal waking up patterns due to some reasons such as extreme fatigue, drugs, or alcohol could be hazardous to the infant.
- When there is prenatal and postnatal exposure to alcohol or illicit drugs, that baby has higher chance of having SIDS.
With these factors being mentioned, what are the ways to protect infants from SIDS?
- While sleeping position is a factor that increases SIDS, sleeping position is also one way to protect your child from the syndrome. Putting your babies to sleep on their backs reduces the occurrence of SIDS, dramatically. What prohibits mother to exercise back sleeping to their babies is that some are afraid that their little ones might develop a flat spot on the back of their heads and that their baby might choke on a spit-up if they are sleeping on their backs. As for the flat surface, that is easily treatable by allowing more tummy time while your baby is awake during the day. For choking on the spit-up, there is no increased risk of choking for babies that are healthy who are back sleeping.
- Breastfeeding is also a big help in decreasing the risk of SIDS. It has the strongest protective effect.
- Do not share a bed, but share a room. Babies who sleep in their parents’ room reduce the risk of SIDS by 50%. This could be because the infants that sleep in the parental room are less likely to suffocate and this allows the infant to be nearby for feeding, comforting, and monitoring.
- Consider also offering a pacifier during nap and bed time. However, try this only after the baby has stopped breastfeeding.
- Avoid using commercial devices that are advertised to reduce the risk of SIDS like wedges, positioners, special mattresses, etc for these products do not show evidences of reducing the risk of SIDS or that they are safe for your little ones.
- The sleeping space should be considered and reviewed. Let your infants sleep in a firm, flat surface. Avoid putting other things that may end up covering your child’s face such as stuffed toys, and other things. That is why it is recommended by most to let your baby sleep on a firm crib covered with a fitted sheet.
- Daily prenatal care during pregnancy is advised for mothers.
So to answer the question, “Is it safe to sleep your baby n your chest”, no. It is not safe at all. As much as co-sleeping has always been a culture to most moms, and no matter how comforting and how convenient this is, with the reported increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome in association to sharing beds or sleeping with your infants on you, you would not want to risk your little one’s life on the line. Aside from that, sleeping your babe on your chest also has other risks than just SIDS. First s your baby may roll off on you and he or she could either fall off the bed or get into a situation where it is impossible for him or her to breathe. Another one is that your baby may become overheated and is also one of the contributing factors of SIDS. And lastly, when your baby sleeps on your chest, they are sleeping on their stomach which is of course, as discussed, on of the highest contributing factors of sudden infant death syndrome. However, with all these risks being mentioned and discussed, there are just moms who do not believe that co-sleeping is one of the factors that contribute to the risk of SIDS. This is because of the following reasons:
- Co-sleeping is very common among mothers. Around 75% of the population of mothers around the world is sharing the bed with their babies. This is why some moms, who actually belong to the 25%, as well as new moms tend to think that there is no risk in co-sleeping.
- Co-sleeping is beneficial for both the mother and her baby. A study conducted by Dr. William Sears to his own daughter and wife resulted to a change in breathing patterns and heart rate of his baby while sleeping with his wife and not sleeping with his wife. When his wife co-shared the bed with their baby, results showed that the latter’s heart rate were more regular compared to when the baby is sleeping alone. The breathing pattern was also more regular. During the co-sleeping, the baby did not have any low points in the respiration and blood oxygen from stop-breathing episodes.