Sleep for infants
Go to any bookstore and you’ll find lots of books on infant care, including many dedicated to infant sleep problems. What does this tell you? 1) Infant sleep problems are common. 2) There is no simple solution that works for every baby.
My baby sleeps all day and is awake all night. Why? And what can I do to change this pattern?
Babies in utero sleep much of the day, soothed by the motion of mom’s active life. And they often awaken when mom lies down for the night. Therefore, babies are born with a reverse sleep schedule. It can take 4 to 6 weeks of effort to help baby learn that nighttime is sleep time. We suggest that you encourage nighttime sleep with soothing activities before bedtime. Establish a routine (e.g. bath, lotion, PJ’s, singing a song). Once baby is down for the night, avoid loud noises, turning on lights and disruptive diaper changes that tend to waken the baby. Realize, though, that your newborn will likely awaken often to feed for these first few months.
My 9-month-old used to sleep well, but now she’s awake a lot. What’s happening?
Many infants who have learned to sleep well become poor sleepers around 7 to 9 months, which corresponds to their developmental phase of “separation anxiety.” During the day, she becomes frantic when she’s put down, cries when she sees her parents re-enter a room, acts afraid of strangers and falls apart at night. Does this sound familiar? Sleep is a separation event and your child at this age may become afraid during light sleep (about every three hours). Stick to your bedtime routine, and give baby extra security and hugs throughout the day to combat problems at night.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
I am frightened about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). What is it? And how can I avoid it?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant under 12 months that remains unexplained after thorough investigation (currently defined as police examination of the death scene, autopsy, and review of the child’s health history). The peak incidence of SIDS is between 2 and 4 months. SIDS is one of the most unthinkable tragedies a parent can face. But there are steps you can take to lessen your worries and reduce the risk.
Remember, SIDS is rare!
SIDS incidence has dropped 50 percent since the 1980s, thanks to increased awareness. Today, five deaths out of 10,000 live births are attributed to SIDS. In other words, your baby has a 99.95 percent chance of not dying of SIDS.
Take steps to prevent SIDS
The exact cause of SIDS remains a mystery, but there are some known risk factors. We recommend that you take the following precautions to keep your baby safe:
- See a doctor when you’re pregnant. Have early and regular medical care during pregnancy to prevent premature delivery, a major risk factor for SIDS.
- Do not use cigarettes or illicit drugs during pregnancy. Tobacco and drug use increase the risk of SIDS.
- Do what you can to prevent teen pregnancy. The SIDS rate is higher for babies born to teen moms. The more babies a young mother has, the higher the risk.
- Wait at least one year between births, if possible. Having babies in short intervals is associated with higher SIDS risk.
- Put your baby to sleep on her back. Sleeping on the tummy, and to a lesser extent the side, is associated with a higher risk of SIDS.
- Avoid co-sleeping (sleeping with your baby) in the same bed because it’s associated with an increased risk of SIDS.
- Place infants on a firm mattress with nothing else. Remove extra blankets, pillows, bumper pads, positioning devices and toys from her crib or bassinet. Ideally, we recommend that you do not co-sleep with your baby (of course, this can be a challenge due to the number of times an infant awakes to feed). Soft adult mattresses and heavy covers are a risk factor for SIDS.
- Do not over-clothe baby at night. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and lightly dress baby, just enough to keep her warm without having to use an extra cover.
- Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. The more smoke your baby is exposed to, the higher the risk of SIDS. This includes smoke on clothing or the interior of a car.
- Breastfeed, if possible. Breastfed babies have lower rates of SIDS than babies fed formula. If you cannot breastfeed, please know that this is not a major risk factor, it’s just another piece of the puzzle.
- Do what you can to keep baby healthy. Minor respiratory and intestinal illnesses are associated with an increased risk of SIDS. Discourage sick people from handling your baby and minimize her exposure to areas with lots of sick kids during cold and flu season especially if she is a young infant. Do a lot of hand washing with soap and water in your home when you are sick.
- Consider using a pacifier. Although still controversial, some studies suggest that using a “binky” reduces baby’s risk of SIDS.
- Talk to your pediatrician. If your baby seems to stop breathing during sleep or turns blue while sleeping, shake him gently awake, and if you cannot immediately arouse him, call 911. If you have worries about SIDS, please contact us at Eugene Pediatric Associates.