New research by Australian scientists may have discovered a reason why some babies die in their sleep from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Orexin is a type of brain protein, which is responsible for regulating sleep. Researchers at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead found decreased levels of Orexin in the brains of babies who have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This ‘breakthrough’ introduces the possibility for future screenings of this protein in babies.
While the potential for this screening to make a positive impact on SIDS prevention is an exciting leap forward, experts acknowledge that biological factors may not be the sole cause of sudden infant death; rather that a mix of both biological and environmental factors may have a part to play. Experts hence caution parents to continue to follow the guidelines for SIDS prevention.
SIDS Prevention Guidelines
According to SIDS and Kids, current guidelines for SIDS prevention include:
1. Put your baby to sleep on their back from birth, not on their tummy or side
2. Ensure your baby is sleeping with their head and face uncovered
- place your baby’s feet towards the bottom of the cot
- ensure that bedding is tucked in securely (not loose), or put your baby in a safe baby sleeping bag
- remove any head coverings before your baby is placed for sleep
- ensure that there are no doonas, loose bedding or fabric, pillows, lambswool, bumpers or soft toys in the cot
3. Ensure that your baby is not exposed to smoking before and after birth. Parents who smoke during pregnancy, and after the baby’s birth, increase the risk of SIDS for their baby. The home, car, and other places that the baby spends time should also be a smoke-free zone.
4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day. Ensure the cot and mattress meet Australian safety standards, and that the bedding is safe.
5. Put your baby to sleep in their own safe sleeping place, and ideally in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first six to twelve months. Room-sharing with a baby has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
6. Breastfeed your baby. There is evidence to support that this reduces the risk of SIDS.
Eleni Fegan is the founder and Managing Editor of DearBub Blog and Magazine which began from a personal journey of research and healing. Her motivation for DearBub is beautifully summarised in her Editor’s Letter: “I realised that there is beauty to giving voice to our experiences, and raising an awareness that we are not alone in them. I realised the immense power that ‘sharing’ had in transforming our sense of self and being through creating connection”.