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The Doctors talk about SIDS
The Doctors talk about SIDS: Friday, October 1, The Doctors discuss their HealthSmart column about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and ways parents can prevent it and find peace of mind.
Lose the pillows and stuffed animals. / GETTY IMAGES

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It doesn't matter if it's your first baby or fifth: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — defined as the sudden, unexplained death of a baby before age 1 — is high on a parent's panic list. Even though rates have declined dramatically, SIDS remains the No. 1 cause of infant death, taking the lives of more than 2,300 babies every year. The incidence of SIDS peaks at 2 to 4 months; most cases occur before 6 months. “For new parents, there's nothing scarier than knowing their baby might be at risk for SIDS,” says pediatrician Jim Sears. “That we don't fully understand the causes makes it even scarier. But parents can reduce the risk with these steps.”

Put baby on her back to sleep.

Research shows it helps prevent SIDS. One theory about why that is: A baby who sleeps on her stomach may press her head into a soft surface; as a result, she's more likely to “rebreathe” her own exhaled air, which is low in oxygen. After the American Academy of Pediatrics launched the Back to Sleep campaign in the early 1990s, the rate of SIDS deaths dropped more than 50%.

Try a pacifier.

If your baby drops it while sleeping, there's no need to reinsert it; if she doesn't want it at all, don't force it; and if you're nursing (which also reduces SIDS risk), don't introduce it until breast-feeding is well established.

Keep the crib empty.

No stuffed animals, no blankets and no pillows. They can pose a suffocation risk or cause a baby to overheat or rebreathe exhaled air. That also means you should lose the bumper pads. (A safer alternative: bumpers with mesh sides allowing airflow.) And skip the sleep positioners and wedges that claim to help prevent SIDS. Most haven't been tested for efficacy or safety.

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The Doctors

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.