Sudden infant death syndrome. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare and something any mother or father would do anything to prevent. While many aspects of SIDS still remain a mystery, it seems doctors are getting closer every year to figuring out what may cause it and, more important, how to prevent it.
In 2010, an interesting and sobering discovery was made in regard to this awful medical anomaly — apparently SIDS skyrockets on New Year’s Day. Pretty unsettling, no? Because odds are you know exactly why.
After examining 129,090 SIDS cases from 1973 to 2006, researchers found that on Jan. 1, the number of babies who die of SIDS jumps up by 33 percent. (33 percent!) And yep, the reason likely has to do with alcohol consumption on New Year’s Eve. The study also found that SIDS tends to be higher on weekends, when again, alcohol consumption is higher as compared to during the week.
More research needs to be done to determine the exact link between New Year’s Day and SIDS, but the authors believe alcohol is the reason, as it impairs the judgment of the parents or caretakers. For instance, the researchers surmise that parents would be more likely to put a baby to sleep on his stomach, despite there being a link between SIDS and stomach sleeping, if they were imbibing.
Also, very obviously, drinking alcohol would make parents much less careful and more likely to slip up. Another example of alcohol inhibiting parents’ judgment and awareness would be if they put the baby to sleep in bed with them after a night of drinking, as it’s often a surefire way to get a baby to sleep. Not only has bed-sharing in and of itself been linked to SIDS, but parents may be more likely to roll over onto a small child without knowing it and not be in a state to hear the child’s muffled cries.
So. What’s a parent to do? Well, there are no guaranteed ways to prevent SIDS, however the first and most obvious way to reduce the risk on Jan. 1 would be to not drink in excess. Pretty simple, no? Also, despite scientists still not knowing the clear-cut cause, it’s important to be aware of three factors doctors have found to often be associated with SIDS:
1. Baby’s age. Doctors have found that SIDS tends to occur most often between the ages of 2 and 4 months.
2. An unknown genetic defect in the baby. This is something that is out of parents’ control, but doctors have found that abnormalities in the part of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep can contribute to SIDS.
3. A stressor in the baby’s environment. This would include being put to sleep on their stomach, overheating or being in an environment with cigarette smoke, which can make it harder for a baby to breathe.
Parents obviously don’t have any say over their baby’s age or a genetic defect, but they can be super vigilant when it comes to their baby’s environment. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following habits can help reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Always, always, always put your baby to sleep on their back.
- Keep the crib as bare as possible, with no toys or blankets.
- Make sure your baby’s room isn’t too hot.
- Don’t have the baby sleep in your bed.
- Breastfeed if possible.
- Try using a pacifier.
And also, it should go without saying: Don’t drink to the point where your ability to care for your baby is going to be impaired. In other words: Have a happy new year, but not too happy.