Parents of young infants fear sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) - and for good reason. SIDS kills about 2,500 babies in the U.S. each year. No one knows exactly what causes seemingly healthy babies to die without any obvious cause. But scientists have found that parents do things that put their babies at needless risk.
Keep clicking as CBS News, with the help of information provided by American Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Institute, reveals 14 things that put babies at risk...
Getting medical care too late
Mothers-to-be should get medical care within the first three months of becoming pregnant - and regular checkups at the doctor's office or health clinic after that. Expectant mothers should also make every effort to assure good nutrition. These measures can reduce the risk of premature birth, which in itself is a major risk factor for SIDS.
SIDS is more common among babies born to young moms under age 20 than to older mothers. And the more babies a teen mother has, the greater their SIDS risk. That suggests that teen moms who have one child should be careful not to have another right away.
Nixing the pacifier
Pacifiers can do more than just soothe a fussy baby. Studies have shown a lower rate of SIDS among babies who use pacifiers.
Short intervals between pregnancies
Having babies back to back can increase their risk for SIDS. Experts recommend waiting least one year between the birth of a child and the next pregnancy.
Smoking or using drugs
Pregnant women should never smoke, or use illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin - both of which have been linked to increased risk for SIDS. And in addition to avoiding smoking, new moms should make sure their babies aren't exposed to someone else's second-hand tobacco smoke. The greater a baby's exposure to tobacco smoke, the greater his/her risk for SIDS.
Placing baby to sleep the wrong way
Babies should be put to sleep on their backs - even if they seem to sleep more soundly on their stomachs. There's clear evidence that putting babies put to sleep on their stomachs or sides increases their risk for SIDS.
Placing baby to sleep on soft bedding
Place infants to sleep in a baby bed with a firm mattress. There should be nothing in the bed but the baby - no covers, no pillows, no bumper pads, no positioning devices, and no toys. Soft mattresses and heavy covers have been linked to SIDS.
Letting baby sleep in an adult bed
Typical adult beds are not safe for babies. Experts urge parents not to fall asleep with the baby, whether in a bed or on a couch or chair.
Keeping baby too far away
The baby's crib should be kept in the parents' room until the infant is at least six months old. Studies have shown that infants are safest when their cribs are close to their mothers.
Putting too much clothing on baby
Experts now believe that babies who are "overheated" from wearing too much clothing are more likely to die from SIDS. Put just enough clothes on your baby to keep him/her warm without having to use covers - and set the room at a temperature that feels comfortable to you.
Failure to breastfeed
Pediatricians are big fans of breastfeeding. Studies have shown that breast-fed babies are less vulnerable to infections or breathing problems. And recent studies show that SIDS is less common among breast-fed babies than babies who are bottle-fed.
Exposing baby to infections
Babies shouldn't be exposed to crowds or to anyone who might have a respiratory infection. Even minor infections may increase a baby's SIDS risk, experts say. Make sure that anyone who handles your baby washes his/her hands first, and carefully clean items before letting your baby touch them.
Ignoring warning signs
Does your baby gag excessively after spitting up? Alert your pediatrician at once. And be sure to let the doctor know if your child has ever had periods during which he/she stops breathing, goes limp, or turns blue.
Not preparing other caregivers
If you take your baby to daycare or leave him/her with a sitter, always discuss each of the above points first. Provide the sitter with a copy of this list, and insist that all recommendations be followed.