Sleep | Understanding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome using the Triple Risk Model
Episode 6 | Understanding SIDS
This episode is brought to you today by my free Clean Sleeping Guide that I have on my website. You can access this baby at www.jenniferbutler.com.au/clean-sleeping Now guys, this guide is the first step I take parents through when I'm looking to help them improve their baby or toddlers sleep. You are literally getting free access to the first pillar of my Triple C Approach that I use to improve baby and toddler sleep. So head on over and download yourself a copy today, jenniferbutler.com/clean-sleeping. Okay, let's get into today's episode.
Welcome back guys. Today's episode I am going to be delving into a bit on sudden infant death syndrome. So it's about understanding SIDS and the triple risk theory. You may not know about this theory but today's episode is going to give you a bit of a rundown on how it actually explains some of the SIDS deaths.
Now, little side note on the 9th of August 2019 it was Red Nose Day here in Australia. So Red Nose is an organisation that's dedicated to lowering SIDS deaths from nine per day, that was quite a startling statistic when I read that, to zero. And their goal and their role is to offer support, education and awareness around sudden infant death syndrome. So make sure you head on over to their website to explore all their amazing resources.
Let's talk about the triple risk model. So this is a useful model that researchers and professionals are using to understand why and how the risk factors for SIDS interact and how they might lead to an infant dying suddenly and unexpectedly.
So the triple risk model explains that the vulnerable baby, at a critical period in development, when exposed to an external stressor with which they are unable to cope, may die from sudden infant death syndrome. So no one risk factor in isolation is likely to be sufficient to cause death.
So let's talk about what these three areas are:
Number one is critical development period. So what this describes is that within the first year, but particularly the first six months of life, it has been found that babies are more prone to having SIDS deaths during this period. Now the reason for that is because really young babies are developing and growing at a rapid rate. And what this sees is changes in their homeostatic controls, AKA their blood pressure, their temperature control, their heart rate, all internal processes that we can't see and we don't realize are happening. But what researchers have found is that this is the most critical developmental period where SIDS deaths are most likely to occur.
Number two, the vulnerable infant. So what this could include is a baby born preterm, a baby whose mum has been smoking during pregnancy and post birth, or for babies who have underlying issues with a part of their brain that controls breathing, they might have some genetic factors going on, or something to do with babies arousal mechanisms, meaning their ability to wake up between sleep cycles. A little side note, the fact that babies wake so frequently in these early days is a protective factor. So we want babies to rouse easily and to be feeding frequently so that they are coming out of those deep sleep patterns.
And number three is exogenous stress or environmental factors. So what this looks like is things like overheating your baby, having them on their tummy to sleep, having things in the cot that could potentially suffocate or cover their heads, or just following unsafe co-sleeping practices. All of these things are the things that we have that are in our control. And that's why health professionals talk so strongly about SIDS and safe sleeping, because this is the area out of all these three that we are in control of, we can ensure that we have our babies sleeping as per SIDS guidelines to prevent SIDS death.
So this model actually brought me peace, and I really hope that it actually brings you peace as well, because I know so many mums and dads out there worry so much about sudden infant death syndrome. But the triple risk theory has taught me that while there are areas that are completely out of my control, that there is no one risk factor in isolation that is likely to be sufficient to cause death, and therefore if I play my part in offering a safe sleep space, I am preventing a SIDS death.
So I understand this topic might bring up grief for some, it might make you feel certain emotions because it's obviously an emotional topic to have these worries and concerns about sudden infant death syndrome. I think it's top of the worries that you have once you have a new baby, but knowledge is power and understanding why we believe that SIDS is happening because it's still an area that is heavily under research. Just getting an idea about this triple risk theory, I hope brings you some solace in knowing that if you're doing your part in providing that safe sleeping environment that you're reducing the risk of SIDS.
My podcast episodes will be talking much more about safe sleeping, in a lot more detail, but I just wanted to start the safe sleeping discussion off by allowing you to understand a little bit about why SIDS deaths occur and then in future episodes we'll be able to talk about how we can make sure that we are allowing our babies to sleep in safe sleep spaces as per the SIDS guidelines.
I hope this episode has been informative and please reach out to me or to Red Nose if this episode has caused you some feelings of grief or emotion because I know that there might be people who are listening who have been affected by a SIDS death. So please reach out to myself so I can offer you some support and some referral to organisations who are able to support you through this tough time. Anyway, I'll see you back here in the next episode. See you then.
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