As a member of the six-person American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on SIDS, University of Virginia family physician Fern R. Hauck, MD, has spent the last two years developing the expanded 2011 guidelines on reducing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths. These guidelines were released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and expand upon the AAP’s previous 2005 SIDS policy.
“We believe if parents and caregivers heed these recommendations it will significantly decrease and even eliminate almost all SIDS and other sleep-related deaths among infants,” says Hauck, professor of family medicine in the UVA School of Medicine.
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended in 1992 all babies not to be place on their stomach to sleep, deaths from SIDS have declined dramatically. But sleep-related deaths from other causes, including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased.
“Placing babies on their backs remains the most important measure parents and caregivers can take to reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep-related deaths,” Hauck points out. “But such newly emphasized recommendations as breastfeeding, not sharing the bed with parents, keeping vaccinations up to date, and not using crib bumpers, can significantly reduce sleep-related deaths.”
The new guidelines strongly encourage parents to have a separate sleep area within the same room. But many mothers who breastfeed prefer to share the bed with their baby.
“Although breastfeeding has been proven, through years of research, to reduce an infant’s SIDS risk, there still is an increased risk of dying for breastfed babies who share the bed with their mother,” Hauck says.
Hauck’s SIDS research dates back to the early 1990s, when she became one of the nation’s leading experts on the condition. In 1996, she published one of the first major studies on SIDS and the largest study at the time involving higher risk populations.
“There is a significant racial disparity associated with this syndrome,” she says. “Infants born in black families are at a much higher risk of SIDS than those within the white population in the United States.”
Hauck’s current SIDS research continues to investigate this disparity and the factors behind it. She also is working on determining the factors that influence and motivate parents and caregivers to make safe sleep recommendations part of their everyday care-giving routine so that physicians and health educators can utilize this information to effectively promote the guidelines.
The policy statement, “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” and an accompanying technical report, was released Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Boston and published in the November issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 18).
For the full policy statement and technical guidelines, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics website.