The state of Alabama recently made headlines with its new program aimed at combating SIDS. The state will provide new parents with free baby boxes — low-cost cardboard cribs fitted with mattresses and sheets — and online access to a sleep safety course. Parents outside of Alabama may not get a free box, but there are plenty of organizations that offer SIDS information for parents and grandparents, and the most effective way to keep infants safe is to educate their caregivers. Anyone expecting a new addition to their family should do their research, even if they've raised a baby before, because standards for infant safety are always evolving.
It's also best to get your information from multiple sources, because, since the standards change so frequently, it can be tough to keep up with every recommendation. For example, the first helpful organization, Centers for Disease Control, lists the basics that new parents are often told on its website, such as placing babies on their backs, using a firm sleep surface, and avoiding soft items like pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals in cribs. But it fails to mention some of the more recent developments, such as the finding that sleeping in a car seat can be particularly dangerous for infants under 4 months old.
The second useful organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a website called HealthyChildren.org, which features the most up-to-date policies, such as encouraged skin-to-skin contact for the first hour after birth and discouraged bedside sleepers and sleep positioners. Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies, regardless of the health and lifestyle of the parents, but room sharing is recommended for the first year. The AAP also suggests offering babies a pacifier, but also states that "It's OK if your baby doesn't want a pacifier," and "If the pacifier falls out after your baby falls asleep, you don't have to put it back in." Similarly, swaddling is fine for babies who can't roll over, but not necessary.
Unfortunately, SIDS gets its name from the fact that sometimes, even if parents avoiding all the known risk factors, babies die for unknown, unpreventable reasons, and their grieving families need resources, too. Hope After Loss is one organization that provides bereavement support programs for parents who have lost a baby or pregnancy. CJ First Candle has a grief support hotline for parents (1-800-221-7437), as well as a state-by-state guide for local resources. The organization also funds research and education on SIDS, in the hope that one day, there will be no more grieving.