Greta O’Steen, BSN, IBCLC
Lactation Consultant/Patient Educator
October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. While many of us are familiar with the more common SIDS prevention tips, such as placing your baby on his or her back to sleep and providing a safe sleep environment, I want to give some insight on a less familiar topic.
Did you know that breastfeeding can help reduce your baby’s risk for SIDS? According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), babies who are breastfed or are fed expressed breastmilk are at lower risk for SIDS compared to babies who were never fed breastmilk. Additionally, research shows that the longer you exclusively breastfeed your baby (meaning not supplementing with formula or solid food), the lower his or her risk for SIDS.
So how can you be sure you’re providing both a safe sleep environment while breastfeeding – especially on those nights when you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted? Here are a few tips we recommend at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, with additional research and input from NIH:
- Room-share with your baby – keep him or her close to your bed, but on a separate sleep surface designed for infants – ideally for baby’s first year, but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing helps reduces the risk of SIDS and the chance of suffocation, strangulation and entrapment. It’s also helpful to have your baby close by for comforting, bonding and feeding.
If you decide to bring your baby into the bed for feeding, it’s important to remove all soft items and bedding from the area. When you’re finished feeding, place the baby back in a separate sleep area made for infants, like a safety-approved crib or bassinet that is close to your bed.
- If you fall asleep while breastfeeding in your bed, place your baby back in the separate sleep area as soon as you wake up. Evidence indicates that the longer a parent and infant share the same bed, the higher the risk is for sleep-related causes of infant death, such as suffocation.
- Be mindful of where you breastfeed. Couches and armchairs can be very dangerous for the baby, especially if mom falls asleep while feeding, comforting or bonding on these surfaces. Pay attention to how tired you are and avoid couches and armchairs for breastfeeding if you think you might fall asleep. You can also ask someone to stay with you while you’re breastfeeding to help keep you awake or to place the baby into a safe sleep area if you do fall asleep.
Want to learn more about how to create a safe sleep environment? Check out NIH’s interactive safe sleep environment tool.
Have questions about breastfeeding? Give us a call – Northeast Georgia Medical Center offers lactation consultations via phone.