Thursday, November 02, 2006

SIDS: It's NOT About How They Sleep...

Even though I often think most medicine is voodoo (as Kender says, "Would you take your car to someone that 'practiced' being a mechanic?"), I normally defer to a doctor's advice. I do realize that even the amount of cumulative hours I have spent on WebM.D. does not trump an actual M.D..

There was one thing I outright defied the doctors on --and that was how to put my kids to sleep. I have never believed that it is natural for a baby to sleep on its back and I never believed sleeping position had anything to do with SIDS... Babies startle at everything (the Moro reflex) and when they are on their backs the motion wakes them, they can't get to their hands to self-soothe and if they throw up they choke on it...all that on top of the fact that they get weird bald spots and flat heads in the back.

Doctors were panicking that they couldn't explain SIDS let alone predict they shot in the dark. They told people babies had to be on their backs. In essence they created a generation of babies that didn't sleep unless they were held.

We were all put to sleep on our stomachs... So I decided to go with that time honored tradition believing in my hart that babies that die of SIDS were born with something that predisposed them to this untimely fate. My kids sleep great. Nursed for 1/2 hour and slept for four hours, and slept through the night by three weeks old. I realize why women listen to the pediatricians no matter how much their babies cry and wake up (they probably just think they have a 'colicky' baby), the doctor's scare you to death basically telling you that you will kill your kid should it even lean to one side. I lied to the pediatricians to save myself the headache. "Is he sleeping on his back?" "Of course". The thing is, being the oldest of five kids in addition to all the foster babies we took in over the years, I was quite sure I'd taken care of way more infants than the pediatrician. (Also, the "family bed" elevates any of these debates.)

Now a new study out of Boston pretty much verifies my long held opinion. NOTE: Docs are not changing their advice to keep your kids on their backs (Though my thinking is, if 65% of SIDS fatalities were on the "stomach or side" that means that 35% were on their backs...right?). Actually, AB had to sign a waiver at the pediatrician's this morning that she would never put the baby on its stomach...

The SIDS deaths are now thought to be caused by an abnormality in the brain (a lack of Serotonin):

"...Scientists believe that SIDS babies are born with a genetic defect that keeps them from responding properly to a "stressor " such as lacking adequate oxygen while lying face-down. Babies who die of SIDS apparently have not developed a sort of "alarm system" that would make them respond to rising carbon dioxide levels by turning their heads and breathing harder, said Dr. Hannah Kinney of Children's Hospital, who is senior author of the study, published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study was based on autopsies of 31 SIDS victims, about three-quarters of whom had widespread serotonin abnormalities in the brain stem. Serotonin, best known for its role in lifting depression, serves many functions in the brain; in the brain stem, it helps regulate breathing and other automatic bodily functions.

The advances in understanding the biology of SIDS could eventually translate into screening babies to determine whether they are at genetic risk and then giving them drugs to correct their brain abnormalities, researchers say...." (source)

If babies sleep better on their stomachs and Doctors are now having to prescribe special headgear to "re-shape" flat heads from back sleeping (called positional plagiocephaly) can that be natural? I don't remember there being a such thing as "cranial orthotic therapy" when I was young...but hey, I'm not a doctor--just a mom of kids that actually slept...and had round heads.

(Disclaimer: This post is ONLY *my* thoughts and opinion.
Please Note: The article does say that SIDS deaths have been cut in half since the Back-Sleeping campaign began

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