Pre-Natal Smoking Could Cause SIDS, Research Says

By Christie Abagon , Dec 03, 2016 09:10 PM EST

Sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS is an unexplained sudden death of babies less than a year old.  A study conducted by the University of Calgary researchers shows that exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy, too much swaddling, and co-sleeping can cause SIDS.

Cigarette Smoking Undermines The Baby's Immune System

The research was conducted mostly on rats to mimic conditions like bed-sharing and over-wrapping.  The researchers spent two years and they found that the said conditions and cigarette smoking increase the likelihood of infant deaths.  Smoking affects the baby's immune system after birth, especially when it's combined with infection, and second hand smoking interrupts breathing.

Dr Shabih Hasan of the U of C's Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute said: "The first thing is to avoid smoking during pregnancy by both parents and the second key message is not to make babies too warm, say, by heating the room too much then putting clothes on them."

SIDS Is The Third Leading Cause Of Infant Deaths

In the US, there are about 3,500 deaths due to SIDS every year.  It is the third leading cause of deaths among infants.  Dr Hasan and his team said that SIDS statistics can be reduced with a national campaign and changes in practices for infant care like room sharing and over-swaddling.  He also advised parents to breastfeed and immunize their babies. 

"The most impact that we have made is the Back to Sleep position so for every single sleep, daytime, nighttime, does not matter, the baby should be put on his or her back, never on stomach or prone position as we call it, so it should be avoided.  It's amazing that after so many decades of research that a simple intervention such as putting the baby to sleep on their back has reduced the SIDS rate by more than half so if we implement the other interventions that I mentioned, I think we can reduce it ever further," Dr Hasan said.

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