Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) occurs when a healthy baby under the age of 1 dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Healthcare professionals are unsure why SIDS happens. However, certain factors can put a baby at risk of SIDS.
SIDS is the
Taking steps to reduce risk factors, such as following safe sleep recommendations for infants, may help prevent SIDS.
Keep reading to learn more about the causes, risk factors, and prevention tips. This article also looks at the support options that are available.
When a healthy baby under the age of 1 dies, and a thorough clinical investigation is unable to find the cause of death, a doctor may diagnose SIDS. SIDS has no warning signs or visible symptoms.
According to the
The NICHD notes that
According to the
Researchers do not know why SIDS occurs, but they have identified some potential factors.
Some physical factors linked with SIDS include:
- Brain development:
Researchsuggests that infants who die from SIDS may have an abnormality in the brain centers that control breathing and sleep arousal.
- Low birth weight: SIDS risk is higher for infants with low birth weights. Research from 2014 states that the risk of SIDS is four times more likely for those who are born with a low birth weight or those born prematurely. The higher risk may be
due tothe fact that the respiratory system is underdeveloped.
- Respiratory infections: Research indicates respiratory infections are involved in some SIDS cases. A person should speak with a doctor, such as a pediatrician, if a baby has a respiratory infection or is experiencing any worsening symptoms.
Sleep environmental factors
A baby’s sleeping position and sleep environment can impact physical factors that may increase their risk of SIDS. These
- Sharing a bed: While caregivers sharing a room with the baby may reduce the risk of SIDS by
50%, caregivers, siblings, or pets sharing a bed with a baby can increase the risk.
- Sleeping on a soft surface: Sleeping on soft surfaces, such as loose beddings, can block breathing and cause suffocation in infants.
- Sleeping on the side or stomach: Sleeping in either position can cause breathing difficulty in infants, and doctors do not recommend it.
- Overheating: Excessive clothing, covering the baby with a blanket, or sleeping in a room with a high temperature can cause the baby to become too hot and may increase the risk of SIDS.
While there is no known cause of SIDS, the following factors can increase a baby’s risk:
- Sex: Male infants are
slightly more likelyto die of SIDS than females.
- Age: Infants between 1 month and 4 months old are
- Family history: Infants born into a family with a history of SIDS are
five timesmore likely to be at risk.
- Secondhand smoke: Passive smoke exposure
can increasethe infant’s risk of SIDS.
- Being premature: Premature infants may have a
greater chanceof SIDS than full-term infants.
There appears to a
According to a
However, it is important to note that there is a disparity in the amount of research that goes into investigating health conditions in Communities of Color.
There may be other reasons why the rate of SIDS is high in the Black community than the ones researchers have found, such as a distrust of healthcare professionals as a result of systemic racism, or not having the same access to healthcare.
Prenatal risk factors
Some prenatal factors can also place an infant at high risk of SIDS. These factors include:
- teenage pregnancy
- poor prenatal care
- multiple births within short intervals of less than 1 year apart
- a history of alcohol, drug use, or cigarette smoking during pregnancy and after birth
SIDS may not be preventable in some cases. However, following risk reduction strategies can help reduce its likelihood.
People should always ensure that they place the baby on its back to sleep, for both naps and during the night.
In addition, people should use a firm and flat sleeping mattress. People should also use a safety-approved crib, covered only by a fitted sheet. People should remove all soft toys and other soft items from the crib.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that people:
- practice room-sharing without bed-sharing
- keep the baby’s crib as bare as possible
- keep soft objects away from the baby’s sleep area
- breastfeed the baby, if possible, for the first 6 months
- use a pacifier, but do not force it if the baby is uninterested
- get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy
- get the recommended immunization shots for the baby
People should avoid:
- over-wrapping to prevent the baby from getting too warm
- smoke exposures during pregnancy and after birth
- drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs during pregnancy and after birth
Learn more about bedding for infants:
When it comes to the best sleeping position for babies in their first year of life, the AAP recommends sleeping on the back as the safest. Infants who sleep on their backs seem to have a lower risk of SIDS.
This may be because sleeping on the back opens up the airways and reduces any chance of suffocation that may arise from a poor sleeping position.
Some people are concerned that the baby may choke on saliva or vomit when sleeping on their back, but the
Another concern caregivers may have is that sleeping on the back can cause a flat head and back. However, these effects are usually temporary and will normalize when the baby turns 1 year old. Observing supervised “tummy times,” where the baby lies and plays on their tummy while awake,
Sleeping on the stomach is unsafe for infants because it
Also, the chance of the baby rebreathing exhaled air is higher. This may also lead to SIDS. In another instance, the baby may breathe in germs from the mattress cover, which can cause allergies.
For these reasons, the AAP recommends – as outlined in the
Experiencing a SIDS death can be overwhelming. It is common for people to experience different emotions that can affect their health and well-being.
The following are support groups for people who have lost a child to SIDS:
SIDS is a condition that occurs when a healthy infant less than 1 year of age dies suddenly and unexpectedly.
While the cause of SIDS is unclear, following the approved safety guidelines may help reduce its risk factors.
For people who experience SIDS death, many resources are available to provide support and help them navigate the grief that comes with this traumatic event.