Pacifiers May Protect Babies from SIDS

Dec. 8, 2005 -- Sleeping with a pacifier may help prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

The finding appears in BMJ Online First. It comes about two months after the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended pacifier use as one of its guidelines for SIDS prevention.

SIDS is the sudden, unexpected death of an infant who is less than 1 year old, with no explanation for the baby's death after a thorough investigation.

SIDS Study

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The new study was done in California. It included the mothers of 185 babies whose deaths had been attributed to SIDS, as well as the moms of 312 randomly chosen healthy babies.

The healthy babies had similar backgrounds to those who had died of SIDS, write the researchers. They included De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, MPH. Li is a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

The mothers of children who died of SIDS were interviewed by staff trained in SIDS-related grief counseling. They were asked about their late child's last sleep. Mothers of healthy children were asked how their babies slept the night before the interview.

Pacifier Use, Sleep Setting

Questions included pacifier use, sleep position, and the conditions in which the baby slept.

For instance, the researchers wanted to know if the babies had slept on their sides or stomachs, with soft bedding (such as blankets), or in the beds of mothers who smoked.

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The AAP recommends against sharing a bed with a baby or exposing babies to secondhand smoke.

Babies should be put to sleep on their backs on a firm sleep surface without soft objects and loose bedding, and they should be offered a pacifier, according to the AAP's new guidelines.

Those guidelines weren't out when the SIDS deaths in Li's study occurred. However, putting babies to sleep on their backs has been recommended for years. That advice is credited with a drop in SIDS deaths, writes Li.

Fewer SIDS Deaths With Pacifiers

Babies who died of SIDS were less likely to have had a pacifier during their last sleep, even if they slept in less-than-ideal positions or settings, the study shows.

They note that their findings and those from other studies support the idea that pacifiers help prevent SIDS.

But Li and colleagues stress that those results don't prove that pacifiers prevent SIDS by themselves.

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