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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness/SIDS and other Sleep Related Death Prevention

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness/SIDS and other Sleep Related Death Prevention

Did reading about Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend’s loss of their pregnancy make you want to cry your eyes out? Well me too. Because it’s something that happens all too often, even if it’s not often talked about, and there is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child.  So let’s join Chrissy and John, and tens of thousands of other parents in America each year, in acknowledging this all-too-common life event– because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

This month acknowledges and supports all parents that experience the unique grief of having had a miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or any other loss from any other cause during pregnancy, delivery, or infancy.  As it turns out, that equates to about 1 in 4 women and their associated partners.  That’s right, 25% of women have or will experience the loss of a child either during pregnancy, delivery, or in infancy. The majority of these losses are from miscarriages that occur in the first trimester of pregnancy and fall under the scope and expertise of obstetricians, but in the pediatrics world, we still see about 3500 deaths per year in the United States related to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other sleep related deaths in infancy alone.

To help prevent SIDS and sleep related deaths in infancy, we recommend following the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines. This includes placing a baby to sleep flat on their back, on a firm surface, in their own space such as a bassinet or crib.

 baby-on-back

While we do recommend room-sharing for the first few months of life, we absolutely recommend AGAINST bed-sharing, as this can lead to accidental suffocation and strangulation. Soft bedding and objects such as crib bumpers, pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals should be avoided, as well as overheating.

Additional recommendations for the prevention of SIDS include getting routine prenatal care, avoiding smoking/drugs/alcohol during pregnancy and infancy, breastfeeding, getting your baby their routine immunizations, and using a pacifier for nap and bedtime.

Notably, the use of home cardiorespiratory monitors (Owlet, etc.) has not been shown to decrease the incidence of SIDS, so routine use of these monitors is not recommended.

Also of note, many babies with reflux discomfort are happier sleeping at an incline, however, it is still safer and recommended for these babies to sleep flat on their backs.  While swaddling your baby for sleep is fine to do for the first few months of life, as soon as your baby looks like they are trying to roll over, swaddling for sleep should be discontinued.

Take-home tips:

  1. If you have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other loss during a delivery, there is still a very high likelihood that you can become pregnant again and have a healthy and successful pregnancy and delivery. It is important to let your obstetrician know your full medical history, even if it is painful to talk about, at the time you believe you are pregnant so that they can help you best care for your new developing baby.
  2. If you have experienced a loss in infancy due to SIDS, or from other causes, and have other children, it is important to discuss that loss with your pediatrician. Any information about your lost child may help to better care for the other children in your family, no matter what their ages are.
  3. If you are a parent with a new baby or infant, do everything you can to prevent SIDS and other sleep related deaths by following the recommendations outlined above. If you have any questions or concerns about safe sleep and preventing SIDS, discuss them with your pediatrician right away.

For more information on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, please see the Star Legacy Foundation’s website, which includes free resources and brochures (all available in English and Spanish) for grieving families, as well as other resources and information.

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