Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a child under the age of one. While the knowledge that SIDS can happen is frightening, parents can effectively lower their child’s risk of SIDS if they know what to avoid. Particularly important to reducing SIDS risk is refraining from smoking, vaping, and using nicotine patches.
The highest preventable cause of infant death
Smoking can increase SIDS risk in a couple of different ways. While pregnant, smoking and all nicotine use put the infant at a higher risk of SIDS. In fact, smoking during pregnancy is the highest preventable cause of infant mortality. After pregnancy, secondhand smoke is also detrimental and increases chances of SIDS.
Infants who die of SIDS are found to have higher levels of nicotine in their lungs than infants who die of other causes. These nicotine levels in the infant’s lungs can either be caused by the pregnancy or by secondhand smoke. Avoid smoking as a parent, and also avoid bringing the child into any environments where they’ll be exposed to secondhand smoke. Risk of SIDS is particularly high when parents who smoke sleep in the same bed with their infant, even if they are not smoking in the bed itself.
Is vaping safer than smoking?
Often, people assume that vaping and e-cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes. However, using e-cigarettes during pregnancy still puts the child at risk. Any fetal exposure to nicotine increases the chances that a child will not have normal lung development. SIDS is often connected to respiratory issues and suffocation. When a baby has underdeveloped lungs or suffers from breathing problems, he or she is more likely to die of SIDS.
What about trying to quit smoking?
Research has found that any nicotine exposure at all can affect the ability to recover from oxygen deprivation. In other words, even wearing nicotine patches during pregnancy can increase a child’s risk of SIDS. If, after birth, an infant gets wedged in where their breathing is somewhat restricted, any nicotine left over in their system from the mother can make it even harder for them to continue breathing. Women who do smoke and are planning to get pregnant will want to talk to their doctor about quitting smoking before attempting to get pregnant.