SIDS: Every New Parent’s Greatest Fear

healthy babyDear Mr. Dad: A few years ago, my sister’s three-month old infant died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My baby is now the same age, and I’m in a panic worrying that the same thing will happen to him. I’m not even sure I understand what SIDS is and what the risk factors are. More importantly, is there anything my wife and I can do keep my son from suffocating to death?

A: In the U.S., around 4,000 babies die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome every year—that’s about one death per thousand births. That makes SIDS the most common cause of death of children between one week and one year old. Before we get to risk factors and how to reduce them, we need to clear up a big misconception: SIDS is not “suffocating to death.” According to First Candle (firstcandle.org), SIDS is “the sudden, unexpected death of an apparently healthy baby under one year of age,” whose death remains unexplained even after an autopsy.

Unfortunately, despite millions of dollars spent on research, there’s no consensus on what causes SIDS. However, many experts believe that the most likely culprit is the baby’s failure to wake up when a breathing problem (such as sleep apnea) happens during sleep. There aren’t any medical tests than can reliably identify high-risk babies. But here are some of the known risk factors.

  • Certain types of brain abnormalities increase SIDS risk.
  • SIDS is most common in babies two to four months old. Ninety percent of deaths happen to babies under six months.
  • SIDS takes more boys than girls. Multiple-birth babies and preemies are also at higher risk.
  • African American and American Indian babies are more likely than white babies to die of SIDS.
  • It’s more common in cold weather when respiratory infections are more likely.
  • It’s more common in families where one or both parents smoke, share a bed with their baby, put the baby to sleep on his or her stomach, overdress the baby, or cover him or her with fluffy bedding.

Despite all those risk factors, SIDS remains unexplained, which means that most babies who succumb to it don’t fall into any of the above categories. There’s no surefire way to prevent SIDS. But there are a number of proven ways to reduce the risks.

  • Put your baby to sleep on his back. Until about 1994, doctors thought that babies who slept on their back would choke on their vomit if they spit up. It turns out that babies are smart enough to turn their heads. SIDS deaths are more than 40% lower now than before the recommendations changed.
  • Don’t smoke and don’t let anyone who does near your baby. Babies exposed to cigarette smoke (even before birth) are at high risk for SIDS. According to the CDC, chemicals in cigarette smoke may interfere with babies’ ability to regulate their breathing.
  • Don’t overdress the baby. A number of studies show that overheated babies can fall into a deep sleep that’s hard to wake from.
  • Put the baby to sleep on a firm mattress: no pillows, fluffy blankets, plush sofas, waterbeds, shag carpets, or beanbags.
  • Give your baby a pacifier at bedtime. A number of studies show that pacifier use greatly reduces SIDS risk. That may be because it helps keep airways open or because pacifier-sucking babies may sleep less deeply. But does it really matter why?
  • Encourage your wife to breastfeed. Research shows that breastfed babies are 60% less likely than formula-fed ones to die from SIDS. They also tend to be lighter sleepers. Plus, breastmilk strengthens the baby’s immune system, which is always a good thing.
  • Don’t panic. SIDS is a devastating, horrible experience for any parent, but try to remember that 999 out of 1,000 babies don’t die of it.

Photo credit: Unsplash.com/Giu Vicente

Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women

Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women.
Topic:
Understanding and guiding the transformation of adolescent girls
Issues: There has been a lot of attention paid to the rising levels of depression, anxiety, cutting, and relationship aggression in girls over the past few decades. But what if those issues aren’t the problem? What if we got it all wrong? In this show, we speak with one of the country’s leading experts on girls and find out what’s really going on with girls as they make the normal transformation from girl to woman.

The SMART Approach to Parenting + The Transformation of Adolescent Girls

Richard Greenberg, author of Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around.
Topic:
Five common-sense musts from a father’s point of view.
Issues: The S-M-A-R-T approach to parenting: Set an example; Make the rules; Apply the rules; Respect Yourself; Teach in all things.


Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women.
Topic:
Understanding and guiding the transformation of adolescent girls
Issues: There has been a lot of attention paid to the rising levels of depression, anxiety, cutting, and relationship aggression in girls over the past few decades. But what if those issues aren’t the problem? What if we got it all wrong? In this show, we speak with one of the country’s leading experts on girls and find out what’s really going on with girls as they make the normal transformation from girl to woman.

Parents@Play Holiday Gift Guide Number 4

Whether you’re someone who’s made an art of procrastination, or you’ve just been holding out for the final, final markdowns on all those post-Black Friday super sales, you’re all out of time. If you’re still at a loss for what to get the children in your life, you can’t go wrong with these.

 

hovertech target fxHoverTech Target FX (Blip Toys)
Despite what you see on TV and in the movies, hitting a moving target is incredibly difficult. So as you unbox your new Target FX, you’ll also need to unbox a lot of patience. Fortunately, the HoverTech is so much fun that you won’t even notice the time. The HoverTech moves up and down and has a floor sensor that keeps it from landing until you’ve shot it down. Comes with the drone, one charging/docking station, one blaster, and three darts. It’s also available in a two-blaster kit. Ages 8+. Under $35. http://bliptoys.com/

 

hulk smash carMarvel XPV Remote Control Hulk Smash Vehicle (Jakks Pacific)
One of the coolest remote control toys we’ve played with, this car features everyone’s favorite green rageaholic flipping, spinning, doing wheelies, and more on a HYDRA vehicle. He also yells out 10 phrases (including grunts and growls). Hulk’s arms are adjustable and swing, so he can smash everything in sight. They also help him right his car if it falls over so he quickly get back to smashing duty. Nothing else on the road stands a chance. One warning: this is a very loud toy, so if you’ve got sensitive ears, you may need to leave the playroom. All ages, with adult supervision. Under $60 at your favorite retailer.

 

nono falcon xsNano Falcon XS (Silverlit Toys)
The Nano Falcon XS bills itself as the world’s smallest remote-controlled helicopter, and it’s got the certificate from Guinness World Records to prove it. But that doesn’t matter if it’s not fun to play with and easy to operate. Fortunately, the Nano delivers on both counts. Like its larger cousins, the Nano flies up, down, right, left, forwards, and backwards. Two things to be aware of: Compared to other RC helicopters you may have flown, this one is a little pokey. But that’s not a bad thing if you or your children are new to drones. Second, because of its size, Nano doesn’t do well with turbulence, so use it indoors only, and keep it away from open windows, fans, and air-conditioning units. Ages 10+. About $40. http://www.Silverlit.com

 

glo wubbleWubbleX and Glo Wubble (Wubble Ball)
If you’ve ever played with a Wubble, you know how fun these giant ball/bubble/balloons are to smack, kick, and bounce around on. Now the original Wubble has two siblings: WubbleX and Glo Wubble.  Wubble X is essentially a mini-me to the original. The biggest difference is that you inflate your Wubble X with helium instead of air. You still punch and kick Wubble X, but now it also floats around the room as if by magic. The Glo Wubble is simply a glow-in-the-dark Wubble, which means that the fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down or the lights go off. Original and Glo Wubbles retail for $19.99 and include a pump. Wubble X retails for $7.99; helium cans are $7.99. All ages, with adult supervision. http://www.wubbleball.com/

 

Curiosity PackCuriosity Pack (Curiosity Pack)
Although the Curiosity Pack comes in a box, it’s definitely an out-of-the-box learning system. Each pack contains age-appropriate learning activities that help kids learn about letters, numbers, science, art, and more. The Packs also give parents some valuable insights into how children learn so they can take an active role in their children’s education. Ages 3-10. $35. http://www.curiositypack.com/

Grammar Mistakes, Part II: Which Weigh Do We Go?

more grammar mistakesDear Mr. Dad: Last week you wrote about a number of grammar mistakes that you find annoying. Reading through your column, those mistakes didn’t seem so bad. What’s the big deal?

As I said last week, English is constantly evolving, and that’s a wonderful thing. But no matter how much our language changes, we’ll always have to use words to get others to understand what we’re thinking. Grammatical errors sometimes make clear communication difficult. Here are some of the biggest offenders.

  • Dangling Modifiers. A modifier is a word that affects another part of the sentence. Separating the modifier from what it’s modifying often causes confusion. For example, in your statement, “Reading through your column, those mistakes didn’t seem so bad,” who was reading? I’m sure you meant that you were. But it sounds like the mistakes were the ones doing the reading. It’s better—and clearer—to say, “As I read your column, I didn’t think that those mistakes were so bad.” Dangling modifiers are everywhere: “The cops chased the robbers in their squad cars” (if the robbers are already in the squad cars, why do the cops need to chase them?). “We saw dozens of dangerous snakes and spiders on vacation in Borneo” (since when do snakes and spiders go on vacation?). Fixing dangling modifiers is usually pretty simple: “The cops got into their squad cars and chased…” or “While on vacation in Borneo, we saw…”
  • Uninterested vs. Disinterested. They sound similar but aren’t. An uninterested person is bored or simply doesn’t care. A disinterested person is unbiased or impartial. If you’re on trial for your life, you’d rather have a disinterested judge than an uninterested one.
  • 360 Degrees. One often hears about people who made “a 360-degree change.” They’re trying to say that their life changed dramatically, but making a 360-degree change means making a full circle and ending up right back where you started. To truly turn your life around, all you need is 180 degrees.
  • “Penultimate.” People use this word to mean something that’s beyond ultimate. But it really means “second to last,” as in “this sentence is the penultimate one in the paragraph.” This is the last one.
  • “Literally.” This word means, “Exactly as written or stated.” But people use it in place of “really, really, really,” as in “I was literally crushed when my girlfriend broke up with me.” The grieving ex-boyfriend doesn’t really mean that every bone in his body was smashed. Hopefully. The children’s literature character Amelia Bedelia is famous for taking things literally. When her employer told her to “draw the drapes,” Amelia picked up a pencil and paper and did a lovely sketch.
  • Homophones. These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. There are literally dozens of them, and using the wrong one can distort what you’re saying in hilarious and/or horrifying ways. For example, putting your hands on your waist (the part of your body just above your hips) is quite different than putting your hands on your waste (your garbage—or worse). Your uncle would no doubt be very upset to find that he was married to your ant instead of your aunt. If you need to move a heavy object, a guy with big muscles would be a lot handier to have around than a guy with big mussels (the seafood). And if that guy with big mussels is broke, he may not have a cent (a penny)—but he probably has a scent (an odor). Other homophones include to, two, and too; way and weigh; flew and flue; road and rowed; and principle and principal.

 

Photo credit: unsplash.com/Pavan Trikutam