SIDS anxiety eating my nights
November 16, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with SIDS anxiety? I have a beautiful, healthy 4 month old baby. During the day I am mostly fine, but at night I have awful fears and intrusive thoughts about SIDS. I am in therapy already - just looking for ways other people have dealt with this. Did it go away after 6 months?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I co-slept
posted by zia at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Get one of these.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:47 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had my daughter in a basket (or basinette, whatever you call it) next to my bed. I did get so terribly nervous during the day where I would put my finger under her nose to see if she was breathing. It was better after six months, it diminishes as the baby gets older. I spoke with many parents both men and women and they all agreed that they would have the same anxiety. Congratulations though!!
posted by Yellow at 3:47 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

It helped me to read about the actual probability (very small) and about the risk factors, most of which did not apply to us.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

Well, babies between 2 and 4 months of age are most at risk of SIDS, so you're already past that hump. To be honest, I didn't really worry about it that much - but I found that the few worries I did have were gone after 6 months.

Is your baby rolling yet? Once they're strong enough to roll, it's really unlikely to happen.
posted by barnoley at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may want to read Cringely's post on SIDS, where the comments mention things that may help. Babysense for detecting breathing, and one EMT thought a AED Defibrillator would be needed if it was a cardiac event.
posted by anon4now at 3:55 PM on November 16, 2012

I'm sorry Michelle, I know you have the best intentions but I think that's deeply unhelpful.

I really struggled with this. I coslept and I read studies in a way that started out pretty morbid but ended up giving me an appreciation of just how important poverty and smoking (neither of which affect my family) are as risk factors. That made me sad and angry, but also calmed me a bit. I also got much less worried after 6 months. There are correlations with sex, birth order, and birth season too. Try hard not to go to the crazy "wrapped mattress" parts of the net, or at least stay as critical as you would about anything else. I know research makes things worse for some people but it did help me.

What really happened though is two things: first, that my fear settled out into a new baseline of worry about my child that I accept will never go away - SIDS was the easiest thing to latch on to at first, but next it will be flu, cars, playgrounds, war... Second, I realized that I was suffering some PND and a flare of the anxiety I've had in the past and I'm doing what I can to treat those.

Best of luck, I hope it gets better for you soon.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:01 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

My fear of SIDS went away once both of them hit the four month growth spurt and sleep regression. They started waking up like newborns again for a month, and then they started to roll over, and by six months the SIDS and intrusive thoughts about it moved into mobile-child, baby proof!!

And that was better because they are so much less fragile by then in general. It really did take time a few more pounds and one or two big milestones to go away.
posted by zizzle at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2012

Sorry, I just realized I didn't link to the statistics like I meant to. In 2009, the rate of SIDS per 1,000 live births was 0.5, which means about 1 in 2,000 babies dies of SIDS. That's .05% (five hundredths of one percent). And that's the average. If you don't smoke, if your baby doesn't sleep on his/her tummy, if you're white, if your baby was full-term, if you breastfeed, if you give your baby a pacifier... all of these things lower that .05% chance even further. It really is very rare.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:44 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

If numbers make you feel better, you may appreciate this previous question. I've linked to my favorite answer, which includes an excellent way to think about statistics.
posted by purpleclover at 5:45 PM on November 16, 2012

If the thoughts are truly intrusive (i.e., obsessional), maybe you and your therapist could consider some interventions (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy, meds) that could help you. You know rationally that the odds against anything happening are low, but if you are experiencing the purely obsessional form of OCD, then maybe you need a bit more help than you are getting. It's anxiety, and if it is overwhelming and interfering with your life, then treatment is in order. New mothers are at some risk for anxiety disorders, so you are not weird. I feel for you and wish you the best!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 5:59 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my baby was small, I was terrified of this, too. A friend linked me to this article, which helped me worry a bit less.

There are real dangers, as others have said above. But I did everything I could to prevent it, as I'm sure you are already doing, and in retrospect the whole thing feels a bit like a mindfuck. Especially since you can find experts emphatically telling you to do contradictory things (Cosleep! Never cosleep!) or else your baby could die. How do you pick what to do?! And meanwhile the baby won't sleep when you try to do "the right thing" and so then you end up trying the other "right thing" and not telling anybody who believes in doing it The Other Way, or whatever. It's all harrowing, but very normal.

Eventually I learned to trust more that my little guy was strong and had a fierce will to live. That helped, too.
posted by gentian at 6:04 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had this about SIDS and a ton of other fears that ranged from the unlikely to the ridiculous. It got a lot better once I realized the anxiety was a gift given to me by evolution -- if I can imagine a potential bad outcome, I can avert it --- new parents are wired to be nervous for just this reason. Once I realized that, I was able to quiet the mental chatter by thinking about what I could do to avert the possible bad then, then doing it. Before that I was literally having insomnia with intrusive thoughts like this most nights of the week.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:30 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of the first answer on the list, you might want to try this Snuza. A bit easier if you are going to do co-sleeping, or use it when you are out and about in the stroller, etc. One of my friends suggested it to me, and we will be getting one of these for our second, due in February
posted by walmerhoz at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2012

This article helped me a ton when my daughter was a newborn. We also had the Angelcare movement monitor. Oh and her crib was within my reach, so I was checking up (still do!) often.
posted by mooselini at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2012

Yes, I had this anxiety, and yes, it definitely got better. It was a pretty gradual process, and I did a lot of checking for breathing, especially in the first few months. There's nothing wrong with that on its surface, so don't do the thing where you worry about being worried. (That's what I did. I do not recommend it. If I'd just been concerned, checked, and then gone about my day, that would have been one thing. Instead, I worried about breathing, worried that my worrying was somehow a symptom of pathological anxiety, worried that my anxiety would be transferred to my kid, worried that I should resist checking for breathing, resisted, resisted, resisted, checked, worried that I was weak-willed ... It was fucking exhausting.)

Commercial SIDS monitors are not recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or anyone who is not selling one. I had a friend whose preemie baby was prone to apnea, so he was on an apnea monitor, a very very expensive medical device, and that bleeping thing gave off false positives — that stopped my friends' hearts — all the time. (He is a robust kid now.) The apnea monitor was so annoying and glitchy that it really made us doubt the efficacy of ones that are $100 or so on Amazon.
posted by purpleclover at 7:05 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will second selfmedicating's answer, above. I consistently regret it whenever I let anyone just pooh pooh my concerns as unfounded and neurotic, even when they are overblown. It is always possible to cover both bets -- to take steps to lower your anxiety by looking at the stats, reminding yourself you are probably short of sleep and thus likely exagerrating, etc and also take practical measures to reduce the odds of the outcome you fear.

I worried that my first born would stop breathing and I couldn't sleep if he wasn't in bed with me as a newborn. I got accused of being neurotic and overprotective. He was later diagnosed with a rare but serious respiratory condition. He is 25 and very healthy because I didn't let anyone deter me from taking reasonable precautions on his behalf when I didn't yet have evidence that there was some sort of basis for my fears, even though "stops breathing" is not a realistic outcome for his condition.

I think it does enormous harm to a person's ability to take effective action when their concerns are simply dismissed as neurotic, even though I know people typically mean well when they are telling someone "oh, that is highly unlikely to happen, so you don't need to worry". Hemingway was dismissed as crazy when he became paranoid late in life that the CIA was following him, tapping his phone and so on. It turns out they were, in fact, doing all those things. I have seen similar stories too many times. If you are worried about something, you should assume that there is some sort of basis for your worry, even if you are overreacting, and take reasonable precautions to prevent it. That is the best way to calm yourself: By reducing the actual odds of the bad thing happening.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 7:06 PM on November 16, 2012

My daughter did of SIDS at eight months old. We didn't smoke, she didn't sleep on her tummy, we're white, she was full-term, solely breastfeed, could roll over on her own, and was addicted to her pacifier... I remember running through the statistics at the time and realizing that in the entire state that I live in she was one of less than 3 SIDS deaths for that year.

SIDS is exceedingly rare, a fact that I've pointed out to my freaked-out-about-having-kids friends many times in the years since she died.

The shitty, shitty, shitty thing about SIDS is that they truly don't know what causes it, and while I'm not sure exactly why I'm posting this in a thread about someone who is freaked out about it, the fact is that while you can reduce the risk factors you can't prevent it.

There are at least a couple accounts of children dying of SIDS in the arms of their parents who were doctors. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen (and it's almost always not going to happen).

My wife and I struggled with being fired as parents (the best way that I can describe how it felt) for a while before we had our twin boys. They spent the first year of their lives on monitors because they were premies and their sister had died. I've written about monitors in another thread that I can't seem to find, but the long and the short of it is that I complete and totally hated them.

My advice? Make sure you have none of the risk factors--most importantly put your child to sleep on his/her back. You'll almost certainly be fine. Your child will almost certainly be fine. Stop worrying. Enjoy your precious child.
posted by togdon at 7:11 PM on November 16, 2012 [15 favorites]

We've followed the above mentioned recommendations and also bought an Angelcare baby monitor that came with a sensor pad to be placed under the mattress which senses when the baby stops breathing and triggers an alarm. This was recommended by our paediatrician and gave us some measure of peace of mind because as a first time parent, I would find myself randomly waking up terrified in the night to stare at him and just make sure he was breathing. (Apparently this is common enough behaviour that they invented this device!) the older he got, the more comfortable I became. Now he's a year old, I don't think about it at all, um, until now.
posted by Jubey at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nobody yet has mentioned a fan in the room as a way of reducing risk. Sleeping on the back, no smoking, firm mattress that fits tightly in the crib, pacifier, no big stuffed animals, and so on. But a running fan lessens the risk another tiny, tiny bit. Not pointing directly at the baby, just creating air currents in the room.

One of the ways I've coped has been to control every risk factor I can.

The fear diminishes for sure. Two reasons: 1) every night that passes without tragedy convinces your subconscious a little more that you can stop worrying and 2) the risk really does fall dramatically as the baby gets older.

Let me add that apnea monitors are horrible, with incessant false alarms that are ear splitting and heart stopping. And it was the only reason I was able to sleep at all. My daughter had a sufficiently close call that her pediatrician prescribed one, and the insurance paid for it. But I would've rented it myself if I'd had to. Is it an option you've investigated?
posted by wjm at 4:14 AM on November 17, 2012

Thank you for sharing your insight Togdon.

Like others we were initially worried about it, a lot, then progressively worried less and less. We did all the "right" things, but never bought a monitor or anything. And yes, like you, there was anxiety at times (it's so hard to tell if their little chests are moving!).

Is it possible some of your anxiety about this is stemming from issues of control? In that, SIDS, is something that you as a parent have little to no control over at all. Is it possible you are worried, not just because you love your daughter, but you worry what SIDS (or any accident) will say about you, as a mother? And those concerns are also fuelling anxieties you might have about your fitness as a parent etc. I don't know, but that was definitely a part of it for us.

I would note, that the peak incident of SIDS is also, for a lot of parents, during the peak times of sleeplessness - the times when you are the least able to cope with things in a rational, healthy, productive manner.

This will definitely pass, I promise you, as it did for us and does for most parents. Best of luck; you're doing an amazing job.
posted by smoke at 2:19 PM on November 17, 2012

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