My daughter is 4 1/2 months old and every time I put her down I worry about her dying of SIDS– I can’t stop worrying and checking on her constantly. She also rolls over in her sleep and I’m afraid of waking her up if I roll her back. Should I get a SIDS monitor? Can you tell me anything to put my mind at ease?”
Unless you have a preemie and were sent home from the hospital with an apnea monitor, no one needs to get a “SIDS” sleep monitor. They have never been shown to have prevented a single death, and the FDA has rebuked companies for invoking SIDS in their advertising. Some so-called SIDs monitors have even been recalled because babies can get strangled by their wiring. Plus they’re really expensive, they tether parents to the range of the monitor and sometimes give them near-strokes with false alarms.
When it comes to SIDS there is plenty to put your mind at ease. If your baby is old enough to roll over she is generally out of the SIDS zone, and the chance that a 4 1/2-month-old female baby will die of SIDS is less than one in a few thousand. There are about 64 deaths from SIDs per 100,000 babies a year in the U.S. Of those babies, about half die between the ages of 2 and 3 months, with sharp peak at around 2 months. Of these babies, they are twice as likely to have been low birth weight, are 50% more likely to be male, with 67% likely to be of African or Native American descent. Most of these had poor air circulation in his sleep environment, were not breastfed and were more likely to have had at least one smoking parent. Living in an altitude above 8,000 feet has also been shown to increase the risk slightly.
After you control for those risk factors, your daughter’s is probably in the tenths of a percent, and her risk is getting smaller with every passing day. Once she gets to be 6 months of age the risk will drop another 90 percent. At her first birthday it’s officially nonexistent.
In the meantime, of course you should put her on her back to sleep and take safe sleep precautions– here’s a handy checklist.
But you are right, nature is not perfect, life is not fair, and sometimes, in spite of everyone’s best efforts babies do die, from undetected congenital defects, or accidents, or other the hundreds of things we can’t forsee or control. If your worst fear does come true, trust that your instincts will take over, you will handle it in the moment and will soldier through with needs to be done. Losing a baby is not something anyone ever really gets over, exactly, but families do go on to face another day, find healing and rediscover beauty and joy.
In the meantime, consider taking an infant CPR or baby safety class, so you’ll be as prepared as a person can be for any baby emergencies. If you still can’t let fears go, write them down one by one, take your list to your OB/Gyn, midwife or pediatrician, and ask them to give it to you straight about how likely your fears are to come true and how they’ll be handled if they do.
When the baby is blessedly asleep and it’s time to rest yourself, resist the urge to do all but the most urgent chores. Many babies will pull full 4 to 6-hour stretches of sleep in the early part of the night at this age, so you need to take advantage. Put her down at an early hour like 7 p.m., then turn off your own lights and phone. If your mind wanders to worries while you try to settle in, remind yourself that the baby will make herself heard if she really needs you. Some moms find downloads of relaxation recordings. nature sounds or white noise help, too.