Yes, your fan. You actually may have heard about this by now, because the idea that a fan can save your baby is — on its face — so absurd. But the folks at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research have done a study that suggests keeping a fan on where a baby sleeps may reduce their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by an astounding 72%.
Now, this is a small study. Fan use and keeping open window during sleep were compared in 185 infants with a confirmed diagnosis of SIDS versus 312 randomly selected infants. There were several other factors used in this study that led researchers to the conclusion they have reached. Further study is required before anyone can confirm that using a fan can help prevent SIDS. But 72%…that’s quite a number.
I talked with a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine about this, and she is just as excited about this study as I am. Dr. Karen E. Johnson says despite the fact that, scientifically, this research isn’t as rigorous as one would like it to be before suggesting anyone act on it, the number is so large, and the amount of effort required to act is so small, that adding a fan to your nursery decor is worth considering.
But how would a fan, of all things, contribute to preventing SIDS? Well, it goes back to a theory doctors have about a possible cause of SIDS. They theorize that a baby who rebreathes too much of their own carbon dioxide…well…it kills them. This is why, for nearly 15 years, doctors have recommended you put your baby down on their back to sleep. If a baby is face down, they can bury their face in soft bedding, and their neck muscles aren’t strong enough to allow them to move their head to get a deep breath of oxygen, should they need to. If they are on their back, carbon dioxide disperses. This is also why doctors suggest keeping blankets and stuffed animals, and even those cute crib bumpers out of baby’s bed. They are all adorable little carbon dioxide traps. We want to keep carbon dioxide away from baby.
So back to the fan…what does a fan have to do with putting your baby on its back to sleep or your disappointment at having to put that precious matching bumper into storage? Well, a fan circulates air, and may help circulate carbon dioxide away from your baby. Bingo! 72%.
This is so exciting because SIDS is still the leading killer of infants in the United States. Even though the numbers of babies who die every year have decreased by 50% since the “back to sleep” campaign began in 1992, More than 2,000 babies die of it every year. That’s more than 2,000 too many.
Listen to Dr. Karen E. Johnson talk about fans and SIDS:
So what else can you do to minimize your baby’s risk of SIDS?
Don’t Smoke. Don’t smoke while you’re pregnant, and don’t smoke after the baby is born. I know how hard this is. From experience. But you can do it. Babies who die of SIDS often have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs, as well another marker for secondhand smoke exposure, than those who die from other causes.
Breastfeed. This is certainly challenging for some. It was extremely challenging for me, as I’ve had a breast reduction and my baby was cow’s milk protein intolerant, requiring me to eliminate all dairy from my diet. But it is worth facing down the challenge, on so many levels. There is evidence that nursing your baby is linked to a decreased rate of SIDS.
Keep Baby’s Room Cool, and don’t bundle them up. Experts suggest keep the room at a temperature that feels comfortable for an adult in a short sleeved shirt.
Keep Your Baby’s Bed In Your Room For A Year. Right next to your bed, if possible. Studies clearly show that babies are safest when they sleep close to mommy. The American Academy of Pediatrics officially began recommending this in 2005.
Which brings us to………..
To Co-Sleep or Not To Co-Sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics says no. No way. No how. No bed sharing. It’s not safe. Period. OK. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s a little more complicated than that. Pediatrician Alan Greene talks quite a bit about this on his website here. He is one of the many experts who say safe, smart co-sleeping does not increase the risk of SIDS, and, in fact, may decrease it. Here are some tips for safe co-sleeping, if you think that might be the right choice for your family.
Wow, this blog entry turned out to be MUCH longer than intended. Sorry about that. The bottom line is, if a fan may decrease the chances that your baby will become a victim of SIDS, why not run out to the super fan store right now and get yourself set up? Sounds like a plan.