November 3rd, 2010
10:26 AM ET

Extra clothes, blankets can increase SIDS risk

As the temperature drops, parents tend to layer their sleeping infants in extra clothing and blankets to keep them warm. But the National Institutes of Health reminds us that this practice, referred to as "overbundling," can lead to overheating and increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome.

"Babies haven't developed all the physiological mechanisms that adults have and they're exchanging heat primarily through their bodies and their heads. If you prevent that from happening, they will overheat," said Marian Willinger, Ph.D., special assistant for SIDS research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) "There's something about a baby getting too hot and not being able to regulate its temperature that increases the risk of SIDS."

Experts have not identified a cause or multiple causes for SIDS. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, SIDS is the third-leading cause of infant death, with more than 2,300 young lives lost in 2006. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says nationwide rates have decreased. In the colder months, however, SIDS deaths are more frequent than in other months, the AAP says.  It recommends one piece sleepers.

So, how do you tell if the sleeping environment is right for your child?

"In general, what's comfortable for you is comfortable for the baby," said Willinger. "You basically don't want the baby to be hot or be cold to the touch." She added that an infant who is overheated may look red and perhaps may  be cranky.

"The other issue sometimes is, parents will be outside with the baby dressed appropriately for being in the cold, the baby falls asleep, the parents bring them in and don't get them out of the heavier clothing. The baby overheats, so you don't want that. Once you're inside, the child has to be dressed appropriately for being inside," she said.

The NICHD offers these tips to reduce SIDS risk:
-Always place babies on their backs to sleep. This is the No. 1 way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
-Place them on a firm sleep surface -  never a pillow or other soft surface.
-Keep all items- including bumpers, blankets and toys- out of the sleep area.
-Never allow smoke around an infant.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. OZ

    So much misinformation about SIDS. Even the DR that coined the name "SIDS" says he was wrong. Please research this on the internet; there is a biochemist in New Zealand and one in England that have positied that SIDS is a one time event. All these infant deaths may result from the CHEMICAL fire retardents that manufactures put in mattresses, bedding and even some sleepwear. Overheating contributes to this because it is the rise in tempurature that causes the chemicals and harmless household mildew to form a TOXIC NERVE GAS. These biochemist beleive that children who survive a SIDS type experience end up with a host of other problems possible autism. Parents blame vaccines – vaccines may cause fever which raises the body temperature and it is the raised body temp that is a problem mixed with these chemicals. It is time to get these chemicals out of childrens bedding.

    November 3, 2010 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tanja

      I wish chemicals can be blamed on autism... I used to think like that too, but then, I know few families that have 2 autistic children out of 3 or 4 they have... so it has to be something genetic...

      November 3, 2010 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
  2. RoseHeart

    Also, some cases seem to be due to changing the sleeping cycle the baby is used to, which is why SIDs sometimes occurs on the very first or second day a baby is brought from home to daycare/childcare (and thus, the brain has to get used to a new schedule and interruptions, and the sleep cycle may be interrupted, causing the brain to "forget" to breathe.) So so sad 🙁

    We can't just blame chemicals, though. Cases of SIDs have always occurred, including prior to the introduction of chemical bedding.

    I've heard a fan in the bedroom (not the type that blows air heavily around and makes noise but just enough to circulate the air) may decrease the risk.

    November 3, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • OZ

      Yes – here are natural bedding materials that have the same risks for the same nerve toxin reasons – sheepskin and kapok. They release chemicals similar to flame retardents, so these should not be used either. Fans do help – they circulate the toxins so that they are not as concentrated. Sleeping on the back helps because the babies' faces aren't directly on the materials. I have no axe to grind against chemical companies but I think we need to investigate these risks more and not just dismiss them.

      Daycare and childcare centers use cheap bedding and resuse cheap bedding (again SIDS risk higher on used mattresses because mildew has taken hold). SIDS is more prevalent in second and third children too because it is more likely that the mattresses are used.

      A study in new zealand or Austraila – when they wrapped these daycare mattresses in BabySafe wraps – crib and cot deaths stopped! Don't just trust me research starting here http://www.babysake.com/

      I think these chemists are really on to something here and it may even explain autism...

      November 3, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  3. don

    does this article suggest that swaddling a baby could get them overheated and possibly lead to SIDS?? I am not a proponent of swaddling (especially after 3mos) thanks for your opinions

    November 3, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Caned

      Please click on : http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/eletters/120/4/e1097

      November 3, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse |
  4. GrandpaLeroy

    A simple fan in a baby's bedroom may reduce the risk of cot death, or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), a new study has found.

    A fan that is kept on while a baby is sleeping reduces the overall risk of SIDS by 72 per cent, but it was even more beneficial if the bedroom was warm or if the baby was left either in the prone position, or was sleeping on its side.

    A fan also reduces the SIDS risk in babies who usually share the bed with another child, and in those who don’t use a dummy (pacifier).

    (Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 2008; 162: 963-8).

    Or, check this out: http://www.infantaire.com

    November 3, 2010 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Improve Concentration

    What s going on – i dont even know what Sids is?

    November 3, 2010 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Debbie Henry

    This is scary. I know there are alot of us who tend to overdress our baby in cold weather especially at bedtime. Thanks for the article

    August 25, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply

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