Infants are exposed to numerous environmental and physiological risks that may at time threaten their survival. As such, ensuring the safety of infants has been a priority to parents and other stakeholders. In the United States, infants’ deaths as a result of poor sleeping practices have been on the rise.
Consequently, governments, caregivers and researchers have dedicated significant resources towards identifying the causes, effects and solutions to this issue. This paper shall set out to analyze Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), its effects on caregivers and solutions that can be implemented to reduce the prevalence of this issue,
SIDS and Safe sleep: Brief Overview
Moon et al. (2000) defines SIDS as the unexpected death of healthy babies aged between one month and 12 months. The author states that an infant’s death is declared as a SIDS only after other causes of death are ruled out. This means that the death on an infant whose autopsy, case investigation and medical history review provide no evidence of foul play or underlying sickness qualifies as a SIDS. Despite the research efforts, the main causes of SIDS remain unknown. As such, it is not easy to predict which infant may die from this syndrome.
Safe sleep is a concept that focuses on sleeping practices that are safe and help reduce the risk of SIDS. It includes safe sleeping positions and environments, which mitigate the risks of SIDS. According to Acton (2012), safe sleep practices are important due to the fact that two thirds of American infants spend some time in non-parental child care. Ehrle et al. (2001) states that 32% of infants in America are admitted to full time child care.
Moon et al. (2000) state that 20% of SIDS cases occur in child care centers, while 60% of the cases in America happen in family child care. In child care centers, one third of SIDS cases occur within the first week. One half of these cases occur within the first day. Due to these statistics, researchers have been trying to figure out what leads to these cases in child care centers. While the results still remain inconclusive, some of the risk factors identified include: unaccustomed tummy sleeping and stress due to change of environment.
Similarly, Crew (2009) observed that infants not accustomed to tummy sleeping are eighteen times more likely to die of SIDS. The author attributes this to situations where an infant is used to sleep on the back and is introduced to sleeping on the tummy, or rolls and sleeps onto the tummy while sleeping. Such infants are at great risk since they cannot lift their head while in this position and also because they lack the upper body strength needed to change their sleeping position in case of oxygen deprivation (Acton, 2012).
Considering that the exact causes of SIDS remain unknown, research on the issue indicates that there are several known risk factors that may increase the likelihood of SIDS incidences. According to Mindell and Owens (2009), these include: smoking during pregnancy, premature births, underweight births, multiple births (twins or triplets), short time between births, and seasonal factors (winter).
In 2010, more than 2,500 SIDS cases were recorded in the United States (Acton, 2012). This means that at least one infant dies daily in child care centers. With this in mind, understanding how SIDS affects teachers (care givers) and teaching would be in order.
Effects of SIDS on Teachers and Teaching
As mentioned earlier, majority of infants spend some time in child care centers. With the current statistics in mind, care givers have had to change their practices in order to reduce the risk of such occurrences. As such, most care givers have come up with policies that highlight their safe sleep practices.
Parents are expected to go through these policies before leaving their infants in child care centers. In addition, Mindell and Owens (2009), assert that child care providers use tummy sleeping due to lack of awareness, parental preference and misconceptions regarding sleeping onto the back. As such, training programs have been put in place to ensure that child care providers understand the risks associated with tummy sleeping. In addition, laws have been enacted to ensure that safe sleep practices are used in all child care centers.
Acton (2012) states that there are modifiable and unmodified changes that can be made to reduce SIDS incidences. Among the modifiable changes are: avoid smoking around children, family planning, avoid overdressing infants, and avoid bed sharing among others. Similarly, Crew (2009) states that infants should be placed onto their back when sleeping and onto their tummies while playing. In addition, constant supervision of infants should be maintained in terms of sight and sound whenever they are asleep.
SIDS is an ill-fated occurrence to each parent. As such, steps should be taken to reduce the risk of such incidences. Poor sleeping practices have been identified as being among the major risk factors. If the mentioned safe sleep practices are adopted, the rate of SIDS incidences will reduce.
Acton, A. (2012). Issues in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Research and Practice: 2011 Edition. USA: Scholarly Editions.
Crew, S. (2009). The Organized Mom: Simplify Life for You and Baby, One Step at a Time. New York: Adams Media.
Ehrle, J. et al. (2001). Who’s Caring for Our Youngest Children? Child Care Patterns of Infants and Toddlers. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
Mindell, J., & Owens, J. (2009). A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems. Chicago: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Moon R. Y. et al. (2000). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in Child Care Settings. Pediatrics, 106: pp. 295–300.