Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – What You Need to Know

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While no specific cause has been discovered, there are a variety of factors associated with SIDS, and many of these involve behaviors that parents can change.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known by the acronym SIDS, refers to the sudden death of a healthy infant with no known cause. It has also been called Crib Death. The idea that a healthy infant can die suddenly is naturally very frightening to parents.

SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion. What that means is that the baby has been thoroughly examined (in an autopsy) and the environment around the baby has been investigated. In cases of SIDS, the baby has not been injured or hurt and has no underlying medical condition that could explain the death.

Much research has been done to discover the cause of SIDS and what can be done to prevent it. While no specific cause has been discovered, there are a variety of factors associated with SIDS, and many of these involve behaviors that parents can change. In other words, there are changes that parents can make and ways to care for their infants to lower the risk of SIDS.

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SIDS is the number one cause of death among healthy babies. It affects 0.57 per 1000 live births, meaning there is less than one case for every 1000 babies born in the United States. Even that is too many cases. Risk factors include prematurity (less than 37 weeks gestation), low birth weight, and low Apgar scores, among others. More important are risk factors that can be modified, which include:

  • Sleeping position. Babies who sleep on their stomach, instead of their backs, are at much higher risk for SIDS.
  • Bed sharing. Babies who sleep in bed with parents or other children are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • Sleeping in an inappropriate place, not a crib or bassinet. This also increases the risk of SIDS.

In a recent study, 92.2% of SIDS occurred in infants sleeping in one of the ways above, sleeping on the stomach, in bed with others, or in some place other than a bassinet or crib. Other factors increasing the risk of SIDS are mothers-to-be smoking during pregnancy or anyone smoking around the baby, putting the baby on soft bedding, and overheating the infant. Use of a pacifier seems to reduce the risk of SIDS.

What do you think?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – What You Need to Know

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19 comments

  1. Profile photo of Steph Steph says:

    I too lost our son Patrick to sides 26 years ago. The guilt and sadness never go away. We did everything right ….but he died anyway. To simplify risk factors such as tummy sleep are ridiculous. The sides statistics have not changed. Our other 4 children were raised the same. Instead of saying sides could be prevented environmentally,let science identify risk factors chemically through testing after birth. Babies have died in their mothers arms from sids. Do not minimize prevention. Now I worry with the birth of each grandchild. Even my doctor could not answer my questions.

  2. Profile photo of Grace Grace says:

    i just learned this past month that i have had a friend who had a child who died from sids at 4 months old during nap time. they had done everything right, sids is a horrible nightmare to any parents that go through it. no one wants to lose a child before their time….

  3. Profile photo of Ashley Ashley says:

    I think information about SIDS, both articles and classes, need some sort of post-script. By all means, follow all the rules if you can, but do your best if not. My new baby has hated sleeping in a “safe sleep” environment from birth. After less than 30 minutes in a crib or bassinet and he cries terribly. And when I go to pick him up he gives me the most heartwrenching look, like, “I woke up and you weren’t there, it was awful, how could you do that to me Mommy?” If I hadn’t slept with him on the couch and now in bed, I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep at all in the first 4 weeks. We’re making improvements, he sleeps in the swing pretty well for naps, and on my husband’s days off we try to put him to bed in the evenings (and failed each time so far).

  4. Profile photo of Danielle Danielle says:

    great article every mom should read this so important

  5. Profile photo of Sierra Lyn Sierra Lyn says:

    Someone from my wic told me cigarette smoking can cause SIDS as well. I heard this and instantly stopped. But for those who didn’t. i recommend breast feeding, as i hear formula can run the babys immune system into the ground. Not a doctor so dont hold me to this. just what i was told!

  6. Profile photo of Melissa Melissa says:

    As the parent of a child lost to SIDS it’s wonderful that they offer ways to help prevent but sometimes non of those factors have any ground on why a perfectly healthy baby goes to sleep and never wakes up again. And i feel That sometimes the parents are secretly treated as bad patents because everyone assumes that the parents could have done something different and there angel baby would be here. I learned to accept that even the most tragic occurances happen for a reason .I only pray that some day we will know the cause and a better way to prevent this disorder like other vaccines help other illnesses. The hardest thing for me was not knowing why that’s all I ever wanted was an answer i am greatful for my oldest 9 and my son (her little brother who is now 3 ) and the baby I am expecting now but I wonder what she would be like today she would be 5 this march. I would never want any other parent to experience this loss

  7. Profile photo of Vanessa Vanessa says:

    I say SIDS is horrible, I’m surprised that a baby I know didn’t suffer from it let alone go to the doctor because of him suffocating let’s just say his mother is someone that’s close to my family and god bless her but she should of been taught better on how to be a proper mom

  8. Profile photo of Marina Marina says:

    Mom’s worse nightmare – SIDS

  9. Profile photo of Sierra-Dawn Sierra-Dawn says:

    Good information to know

  10. Profile photo of Aimee Aimee says:

    It’s good to know before my first what not to do though!

  11. Profile photo of Colleen Colleen says:

    co-sleeping does not add to the risk of sids if done properly. it actually reduces the risk. please do more research before writing articles condemning common parenting practices.

    http://www.naturalchild.org/james_mckenna/sleeping_safe.html

    • Profile photo of Francesca Francesca says:

      I was going to write the same thing! Lots of studies have shown that safe cosleeping reduces SIDS. Deaths due to unsafe cosleeping have a known cause: suffocation.

  12. Profile photo of Jeanetta Jeanetta says:

    The fear of SIDS is always of my mind…

  13. Profile photo of AmyC AmyC says:

    Good info but still scary stuff

  14. ugh sids worries me so much

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