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|Sleep as a physiological process|
Can a child die in a sleep?
It sounds terrible, but yes, a child can die in a sleep… There is a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); it is also called a crib death or a cot death. It is an unexpected infant’s (from 1 month to 1 year) death mostly during a sleep without obvious symptoms or causes. Scientists still shrug their shoulders when they are asked to explain why exactly about 2.500 infants die in the USA each year. The investigations have been conducted since the 50s, 20th cent.
An infant can be claimed to die in the result of SIDS only after autopsy (post-mortem examination of a corpse which is aimed to define true causes of a death); investigation of a death scene and circumstances of it (whether there is any evidence of an infanticide); studying an infant’s medical history (whether there is anything an infant could die from).
Although true causes why infants die in a sleep are still unknown, more often they stop breathing because of suffocation, hyperthermia, hypothermia, parents’ negligent attitude, etc.
There are suppositions that infants may have SIDS because of underdevelopment of those parts of a brain which are responsible for breathing and awakening as well as underdeveloped lungs. Normally, if there is oxygen deficiency in infant’s blood (the same is with a person of any age) that prevents a proper functioning of his/her body system, an infant’s brain receives alarm signals about the problem and it begins to wake an infant up. But some infants’ brain is not developed enough to do it. In most cases, their mother must blame themselves in it. It can be because an infant was born prematurely; influenced by secondhand smoking; his/her mom continued smoking, taking drugs or drinking alcohol while having being pregnant; etc. What is the reason for oxygen deficiency is another question (an infant was laid on his/her stomach; entangled in bedding; had something that had fallen on his/her face (for example, a stuffy toy); etc.).
Also, some experts are inclinable to think that infants die in their sleep because of a respiratory infection. So, it is extremely important to run thorough medical examinations regularly.
When does an infant run a risk to become one more victim of SIDS?
When he/she is laid on his/her stomach.
Specialists state that such a sleeping position can make an infant’s breathing passages too narrow to breathe properly or to breathe at all. That is why it is safer for a baby to sleep on his/her back. According to the observations, children’s chances to have SIDS drop by 50 per cent when they are sleeping on a back.
However, for some children, a tummy sleeping position is useful and even necessary. For example, for those who have chronic digestion diseases or airways’ deformity. If parents face such a dilemma, it is better to consult a doctor what sleeping position is the most appropriate for their baby.
Some parents are concerned about putting their baby on his/her back because this sleeping position has its disadvantages too. They are afraid that a baby can choke on spit-up or vomit, but experts assure that it cannot happen if a baby is healthy. Also, they are anxious about the possibility of a flat spot appearance on the back of a baby’s head. Although there is really such a chance, its damage can be easily removed or prevented. It is just necessary to change an infant’s lying position from time to time.
When a baby is overheated.
When a baby is sleeping on a too soft mattress.
When an infant has got entangled into his/her bedding and cannot breathe with fresh air (he/she has to inhale exhaled one, carbon dioxide).
Baby boys die from this syndrome more often than baby girls.
When a baby’s age is from 1 month to 1 year (the most dangerous age is 2-4 months though).
Genetic predisposition. If a baby had siblings who died from SIDS, his/her chances to die from it automatically become higher.
When an infant inhales cigarette smoke regularly (secondhand smoking).
When a baby was born prematurely (with a low birth weight correspondingly).
When an infant’s mother is younger than 20 years old.
When a baby’s mom continues to smoke, take drugs and drink alcohol during pregnancy.
Race. Due to unknown reasons, Black, American Indian and Eskimo infants fall victims to SIDS more often.
Dear parents, never neglect your children’s comfort and a health condition. What seems unimportant to an adult can be crucial for a child. Draw information about infant care from different sources (special literature, consulting a doctor or more experienced parents, etc.). Be aware of the factors that can cause dangerous consequences as well as of the novelties which can contribute to your baby’s healthy development.
SIDS is the third main cause of infants’ mortality in the US according to the study of 2011 which still does not have an adequate and conclusive explanation. But some factors, which can save a child’s life, have been defined in the long run.
A baby is to sleep on a firm mattress.
It is strictly prohibited to put an infant on any surface (a couch, a chair, etc.) except a crib.
A baby is not to sleep on a pillow (it must not even be near).
It is prohibited to keep blankets, stuffed toys or pillows in a baby’s crib.
An infant is not to be dressed or wrapped too warm. There should be kept an appropriate temperature for a baby of a particular age in a room. A main rule is to dress a baby in the same way as you would dress yourself. If an adult feels comfortable (neither cold, nor hot) in a room wearing a short-sleeve shirt, it is an optimal temperature for a baby too.
A pregnant woman must quit smoking, taking drugs or alcohol (at least while she is pregnant not to do harm to her baby). Otherwise, her child is 3 times more likely to die from SIDS.
Prenatal care is to be kept.
An infant is to run medical examinations regularly.
A mother should try to prolong breastfeeding for 4-6 months.
A baby is to be given a pacifier while sleeping.
A child is to sleep in the same room with his/her parents, but not in the same bed.
A child is recommended to be wrapped up or put into an infant sleeping bag while sleeping. It will make rolling over in a cot impossible (until they grow enough for this, in 4-6 months).