Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unfortunate death of a healthy infant (1 week to 1 year of age) that is not explained by an obvious medical condition and therefore sudden. It typically occurs between ages 2 and 4 months.

SIDS is the main cause of death in infants. It occurs during sleep. Unfortunately 1000s of infants die in sleep. In the United States, 2,500 infants die from SIDS each year. “Crib death” is another name for this horrible event. The cause of SIDS remains unknown. There are theories: abnormalities in the heart being as one, not fully mature brain is another presumed cause.

SIDS is increased in the following situations:

  • Winter
  • Bed sharing
  • Genetic factor
  • Preterm birth and low weight.
  • A 1997 study from New Zealand by Thompson found that significant risks for SIDS are sleeping in prone position (face down) or side, bed sharing and mother smoking. Exposure to tobacco seems to be a significant problem.
  • SIDS is more common in male infants.

Guidelines for prevention of SIDS

(partly adopted from the National Institutes for Health)

  • Place the infant on the back with face up whenever the baby sleeps including during naps
  • Make sure that the environment is conducive to good breathing. Do not put too many blankets, stuffed animals or pillows. Dress the child in warm clothing and keep the crib as clear and empty as possible.
  • If you need to cover the child, do so up to their chest with their arms above the blanket so the infant is less likely to pull the blanket up to their head. Try to tuck the blanket on the side of the bed.
  •  Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, with crib mattress that is covered with a fitted sheet – Never place a baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt or soft surface.
  • Pregnant woman should not smoke
  • Mothers should not smoke around the infant
  • Avoid sleeping with the same bed as the infant (to prevent accidentally sleeping on the infant)
  • Encourage breastfeeding
  • Avoid overheating the baby or the environment during sleep – Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.