Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – What You Need to Know
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.
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.