SIDS & Positional Asphyxia in Premature Babies

Premature babies are more at risk from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Positional Asphyxia than babies born at full term. Steps can be taken to reduce the risk of both of these conditions.

Here is a guide to SIDS and Positional Asphyxia and what you can do to help reduce that risk.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is when an infant dies in their sleep for no apparent reason. The reason why babies die from SIDS is unknown. Some theories suggest that is due to developmental delays in the brains and others believe that it’s due to the position the baby is sleeping and body temperature. It most commonly occurs when the baby is sleeping at night.

When a baby dies from SIDS investigations are carried out to see why the baby has died, the findings are used to help with research in to the condition and not used to point the finger of blame.

If the baby’s death is still unknown after investigation then the reason on the death certificate will be registered as SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy) or Cot Death.

Babies under four months, premature babies and low weight babies are more at risk to SIDS.

Risk Factors of SIDS

Medical professional have still to find the reason why babies die from SIDS, however they have identified some risk factors that can increase a baby’s chance for SIDS.

These are:

  • Babies Born Prematurely
  • Low Birth Weight Babies
  • Babies under four months
  • Baby Boys
  • Baby’s sleeping on their fronts
  • Overheating
  • Allergies
  • Bacterial & Viral Infections
  • Babies born to Mother’s that smoke or has taken drugs throughout the pregnancy.
  • Smoking around the baby.

Prevention of SIDS

Here are some suggested steps you can take to reduce the risk of SIDS.

  • Lay your baby on their back to sleep
  • Lay them feet to foot in their cot, which means much sure their feet are at the foot of the cot so they cannot wriggle down under the covers
  • Do not use duvets or quilts on infants under 12 months old. Use blankets that you can layer or baby sleeping bags
  • Don’t let your baby get too hot; the recommended temperature of a baby’s room is 18oc. Though a range of 16oc to 20oc is acceptable.
  • Ensure the mattress is firm and you use a new mattress for each child you have.
  • Make sure bedding is tucked in securely
  • Do not smoke around your child or let anyone else do so
  • If your babies temperature is too high then cool them down, if they are ill seek medical advice
  • Its recommended that your baby sleeps in your room for the first 6 months
  • There is evidence to suggest that letting your baby have a dummy helps reduces the risk
  • Ensure you use the correct size of premature baby dummy for your baby’s gestation
  • Don’t share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking or taking drugs

Unfortunately there is no hard evidence on what the causes of SIDS are but by ensuring you take these measures could help prevent it.

What is Positional Asphyxia?

The condition Positional Asphyxia is when the body fails to get enough oxygen due to a high amount of carbon dioxide in the surrounding air, which is caused by an improper sleeping position. This can lead to suffocation, which in turn leads to unconsciousness and often death.

What Causes Positional Asphyxia?

When a baby sleeps on their front and put their face especially their nose in to the bedding, they can cause a build up of Carbon Dioxide in the surrounding air. The bedding traps the Carbon Dioxide each time the baby exhales and the air becomes more concentrated with the Carbon Dioxide and the amount of Oxygen in the air decreases. If this happens over an extended period of time the baby can suffocate which can lead to their death.

Loose bedding or unsafe cots and mattress will increase the risk of Positional Asphyxia.

Premature babies are at a higher risk of Positional Asphyxia as they are prone to having immature lungs and are more likely to have a low oxygen levels to start with.

How Do You Prevent Positional Asphyxia?

Here are the measures you can take to help prevent Positional Asphyxia

  • Lay your baby on their back when they are sleeping
  • Make sure covers are tucked in securely so they are not loose
  • Don’t use pillows in their cots
  • Remove all teddies and soft toys from the cot
  • Make sure their mattress is firm
  • Ensure the mattress is the right size for the cot
  • Don’t let them sleep on the sofa, waterbed or beanbags

You cannot predict when SIDS or Positional Asphyxia is going to occur but you can follow the steps above to help reduce the risk of it happening to your baby/child.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sleeping for babies
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 07:46:09

    One of the hardest things to do as a parent is make sure that your baby is comfortable and sleeping safely. General guidelines say not to put anything soft in the crib or bed with your baby due to a choking hazard.


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