Local News

Pacifiers May Help Reduce SIDS Cases, Study Finds

Posted December 14, 2005 7:37 a.m. EST

— Since 1983, sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, has declined by half in the United States.

Still, 2,500 children die from SIDS every year in the U.S.

A new study in BMJ (formerly called British Medical Journal) points to pacifiers as a way to reduce the SIDS risk and the influence of other risk factors.

New moms like Emily Ortiz are often overwhelmed with new information about caring for their baby, even down to how babies should sleep.

"Of course, the whole thing, don't ever put them to sleep on their bellies," said Ortiz. "Always put them to sleep on their backs."

WakeMed Pediatric Hospitalist Dr. Benjamin Alexander says SIDS happens because of breathing problems.

"Something causes a problem with their respirations and they lack the ability to arouse from sleep enough to open their airway," Alexander said.

To prevent SIDS, pediatricians tell parents to avoid placing an infant on their side or facedown.

Other dangers include a mother who smokes and a soft bedding environment.

Dr. Alexander advises, "The best thing is a firm mattress with a thin sheet."

Now the study in BMJ reports the use of a pacifier can reduce the risk of SIDS even in the presence of these other risk factors.

But Dr. Alexander says it's not a cure-all.

"Putting a baby to sleep with a pacifier doesn't mean that you shouldn't put them to sleep on their back," Alexander said. "It doesn't mean that it's OK to smoke. It doesn't mean it's OK to have them in the bed with you with soft bedding."

Dr. Alexander adds, it's not clear what benefits a pacifier offers to reduce the risk of SIDS, but it's certainly not harmful.

It's just one more piece of information Emily Ortiz will consider when she takes baby Amira home.

"Definitely, I mean, you don't want to think about your baby not waking up in the morning," said Ortiz.

SIDS is considered rare, occurring about 1 in every 2,000 births. It does seem to happen more between the ages of 2 to 6 months.