- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Babies should be offered pacifiers at bedtime, and they should sleep in their parents’ room — but not in their beds — in order to lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the nation’s largest group of pediatricians says.

Both measures may help keep babies from slumbering too deeply — a problem for infants prone to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), said Dr. Rachel Moon, who helped draft the new recommendations for SIDS prevention. They were prepared for release yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The death rate from SIDS has fallen sharply in recent years, now that parents are warned not to let their babies sleep on their stomachs or amid fluffy bedding or stuffed toys. But it remains the leading case of death in U.S. infants between ages 1 month and 1 year, killing more than 2,000 U.S. babies each year, and new tactics are needed to fight it, the academy said.

SIDS is defined as a sudden death of an infant, often while sleeping, that remains unexplained even after an autopsy and death scene examination.

Some breast-feeding proponents have advocated letting infants share their parents’ bed to facilitate nighttime nursing and have opposed pacifier use because of concern that the devices might interfere with nursing.

But the academy is a longtime supporter of breast-feeding, and the new policy was crafted with that in mind. It recommends delaying pacifier use for breast-fed infants during the first month of life — when SIDS risks are low — “to ensure that breast-feeding is firmly established.” The academy advises placing cribs near the parents’ bed makes breast-feeding more convenient.

Infants may be brought into the bed to nurse, but should be returned to their cribs afterward, the policy says.

Pacifiers offered at bedtime should not be reinserted if they fall out during sleep, should not be coated in sweet substances, and should not be forced upon infants who refuse them, the policy advises.

The new policy, which updates the academy’s 2000 SIDS guidelines, also says that the only recommended sleep position for infants is on their backs. Letting babies sleep on their sides, considered a less favorable option in the old policy, is now considered too risky to even be considered an option, because infants could roll over to their stomachs.

In 1992, a total of 4,660 U.S. infant deaths were attributed to SIDS. That annual number fell to roughly 2,800 in 1998, at least partly because of the government-sponsored “Back to Sleep” campaign begun nationwide in 1994. By 2002, the reported number had dropped to 2,295.

“Over 2,000 babies a year are still dying. We should be able to do something about that,” said Dr. John Kattwinkel of the University of Virginia, chairman of the academy’s SIDS task force.

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