Premature babies and SIDS: Doctors should make special effort to talk to parents About Risk

Because premature and small babies are at risk for SIDS later and longer than full-term infants, pediatricians should adjust when they offer counseling to parents about preventing SIDS, according to research published by a Saint Louis University pediatrician who examined more than 8,000 SIDS deaths.

"Physicians should remain vigilant and, particularly for preterm infants, should provide SIDS prevention counseling beyond the first four months," says Donna R. Halloran, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and principal investigator.

The risk for SIDS is 50 times greater for premature infants compared to full-term infants when they are placed to sleep on their stomachs.

"Putting babies on their backs to sleep can prevent SIDS and should be discussed at the six-month visit for preterm infants. And doctors should talk to families during the traditional four-month visit, which is before the peak risk for infants of 22 to 27 weeks' gestation. It's an especially good time for SIDS preventive counseling in preterm."

The article was published in the January issue of Annals of Epidemiology.

Premature babies are at an increased risk for SIDS, which is the leading cause of post neonatal death in the United States, says Halloran, who also is a pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. Smaller babies infants who weigh less than 10 percent of infants of the same gestational age also have an increased risk of SIDS, she adds.

Typically, pediatricians concentrate their SIDS prevention counseling during the neonatal and two-month well-child visits. The timing works well for counseling parents of full-term babies who are at the highest risk of SIDS when they are between two and four months old. The average age of death in full-term babies occurs at 14.5 weeks.

However, Halloran's research finds that SIDS strikes very premature babies those born at the gestati

Contact: Nancy Solomon
Saint Louis University

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