Researchers have found that infants who sleep with a fan by their bed could have as much as a 70% lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, than babies who sleep in less well ventilated rooms. Similar benefits were seen in babies who slept near an open window, though the difference was found to be less significant. Either way, the findings indicate that the environment that your newborn sleeps in could influence whether or not they are at risk.
SIDS is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of one month to one year, and generally occurs most often in babies between the ages of 2-4 months. Death from SIDS tends to happen most often during the winter months, when children may be more bundled up and rooms may be more insulated from the cold with less exposure to fresh air.
With this in mind, doctors out of California theorized that increasing the air flow around a baby when they sleep might be an important consideration because within a confined space, the carbon dioxide that they exhale may in fact build up near their face. This accumulation, which may become trapped due to excess bedding or another person’s body, can lead to asphyxiation if the infant does not have the physical ability to shift their position or is not yet developmentally advanced to alert their body of impending danger.
Their findings supported this idea: sleeping by an open window lowered the risk of SIDS by 36%, while using a fan by the sleeping child lowered the risk by as much as 72%.
While experts call the findings exciting, there is some concern that adults might start to think that using a fan is the solution to all of their worries and as a result, might neglect other precautionary measures.
For this reason, it is important for new parents to always keep in mind that proper ventilation is not a substitute for sound sleeping practices, but should rather be used in conjunction with them, as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• Give them a pacifier if they’ll take one
• Put them to bed on their backs
• Use a firm mattress with no loose material that the child can wrap themselves around.
• Do not sleep with your baby next to you or between you and your spouse, but rather give them their own bed or crib and keep it nearby.
• Do not place heavy comforters or toys or anything that can cover their faces in their cribs.
• Use a light blanket and cover the child up to their chest. If possible, use sleep sacks or sleep clothing, instead
• Avoid overheating and keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
• DO NOT SMOKE, either during pregnancy or around your baby, or for that matter, around anybody, including yourself.
For more information, consult your pediatrician and check out the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics