FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Each year, 4,500 infants die suddenly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sudden unexplained infant death happens quickly, with no immediately discernable cause.
After investigations and autopsies, nearly half of SUID cases are attributed to sudden infant death syndrome. The CDC places SIDS as the leading cause of death for infants ages 1 to 12 months in the United States. It is the third leading cause of infant death overall.

Colonel Jeffrey Kingsbury, chief, Preventive Medicine, Womack Army Medical Center, said the difficultly in preventing SUID and SIDS is that there is no clear reason as to why or how the baby died. While the cause is unknown, he said that there are measures parents can use to reduce the risk.

"Research has shown that putting the baby on their back to sleep reduces SIDS rates by 40 percent," said Kingsbury. "Babies should be put on their back to sleep every time, during naps and at night. They should only be on their belly when they are awake and playing."

Kingsbury stressed that babies should only sleep in their crib, which needs to be free of stuffed animals, pillows, quilts, pillow-like bumpers and other items that pose a suffocation risk. The crib mattress should be firm and covered with a clean, fitted sheet.

Babies should not be sleeping in bed with their parents and if they doze while in a car seat or swing, an alert parent must watch them at all times. They should not be using the car seat or swing as an alternate place to nap or sleep.

Soft pillows and blankets aren't the only hazards some infants are exposed to. The habits of the parent can also impact a baby's well being.

"Parents need to ensure they don't smoke around their babies," said Kingsbury. "Second-hand smoke poses a major risk to infants."

Other unexplained infant deaths are caused by hypothermia or hyperthermia. Regulating a baby's body temperature is an important measure for parents to take. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development suggests keeping the room where the baby sleeps at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.

"The baby should be dressed in light, warm, sleep clothing and should ideally not need a blanket," said Kingsbury. "If the baby does need a blanket, it should be securely tucked in at the infant's feet and not be able to be pulled over the baby's face."

There are numerous classes and educational tools available to parents on Fort Bragg. Mothers who give birth at Womack must undergo a newborn care class before being discharged from the hospital. WAMC teaches parents "baby basics," along with breast or bottle feeding, infant safety and infant security. A closed circuit TV channel designed for new parents focuses solely on infant care at home.

Army Community Service's New Parent Support Program helps Army Families learn to enhance parent and infant attachment, increase knowledge of child development and provide connections to support services that allow parents to become nurturing and capable caregivers. Through classes and support groups, moms and dads can learn to care for their child and how to keep their baby safe.

Both WAMC and ACS have licensed social workers and registered nurses on staff to help provide education and support.

Parents are never alone. Reducing the risks your baby is exposed to significantly impacts your child's livelihood. If you ever feel stressed, have a question or need some advice, help is always just a click or a phone call away.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16