When my nephew was three days old, I stayed with him overnight to take care of him. I still remember that night very clearly. It was the first time I had ever held a newborn infant. I remember holding him and looking at him the whole night while he slept to make sure he was okay.
I remember memorizing everything about him. I remember how adorable he was, and how he smiled so many times in his sleep. And I remember this overwhelming feeling that this little person would become one of my closest friends in life.
That night I also remember staring at him to make sure he was breathing properly. I watched his belly all night to make sure it was moving up and down. And when my eyes crossed from doing this so many hours, I resorted to putting my finger under his little nose periodically, and tapping him gently so that I would know that he was breathing.
When it comes to taking care of an infant, there really is no such thing as taking too many precautions. There are a few things in life that scare me beyond belief. An infant not breathing properly is at the top of that list. This fear has caused me to research the topic of SIDS, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
What I learned is that an infant does not have a mature breathing system in the first four months of life. It is very important to put an infant to sleep on their back and check on them periodically to make sure they are ok. Putting an infant to sleep on itís back ensures that he/she will get plenty of fresh oxygen to breathe, and also it helps to prevent a rise in body temperature. A lack of oxygen and rise in body temperature can cause SIDS.
Avoid putting an infant to sleep on their side or stomach, even for a short nap, as this doubles the risk of SIDS. The reason for this is that when an infant is young, itís breathing system is not developed enough to wake them up if they do not get enough oxygen. If they are sleeping on their side, it is easy to roll over onto their stomach which can cause an infant to not get enough oxygen which is a dangerous thing.
As an infant enters six months of age, they are more likely to roll over onto the stomach to sleep and this is normal. At this age an infants brain and breathing system are mature enough to take in enough oxygen, and the risk of SIDS declines.
It is important not to overheat a nursery, or place your infants bed over a heat source, as overheating the infant increases the risk of SIDS. Wait until the child is a year old before putting a blanket or stuffed toys in the crib. Until that age, doctors recommend swaddling an infant in a receiving blanket to keep her/him warm.
Giving a baby a pacifier during sleep or a nap is a good thing. A pacifier can reduce the risk of SIDS, and help an infant to feel secure.
One last and very important fact is that putting an infant to sleep in the bed with you is dangerous. This is because over exhausted parents could accidentally roll over onto the baby during sleep. An infant could also, God forbid, be suffocated by a pillow or blanket.
It is safer to use a sleeping crib that connects directly next to your bed, or you could move your infants crib right next to your bed at night. This helps to greatly reduce the risk of SIDS because a parent is better able to care for the infant, and be alerted to any type of distress that can arise. Sleeping with an infant safely close by, could give a parent enough peace of mind to feel good and get some much needed sleep.