College of DuPage Nursing Student Kylie Nicole Knight shared with Healthy Lombard that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a baby less than a year old. SIDS is also known as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs. Sudden infant death syndrome can affect any infant. About 2,300 babies in the United States die of SIDS each year. Some babies are more at risk than others. There are several risk factors that can increase the risk which include:
- Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS
- Infants are most vulnerable between the second and fourth months of life.
- Non-white infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
- Family history. Babies who have had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk.
- Secondhand smoke. Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
- Being premature. Both being born early and having low birth weight increase an infant’s chance of SIDS.
Although the cause of SIDS is unknown, many researchers believe that it may be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep. This means that the baby doesn’t have the ability to detect low levels of oxygen or a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. Even though the cause is unknown, there are still things that you as a parent can do to help reduce the risk of SIDS, such as:
- Place your baby to sleep on his or her back, rather than stomach or side. Babies that are placed to sleep on their stomach or side might have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs. Babies that sleep face down may re-breathe exhaled carbon dioxide.
- Keep the crib as bare as possible. Use a firm mattress and avoid placing your baby on thick, fluffy padding. Don’t leave pillows, fluffy toys or stuffed animals in the crib. These can interfere with breathing if your baby’s face presses against them.
- Don’t overheat your baby. Keep your baby warm by a sleep sack or other sleep clothing that doesn’t require additional covers. Don’t cover your baby’s head.
- Have your baby sleep in your room but in their own crib. Adult beds are not safe for infants. A baby can become trapped and suffocate between the headboard slats, the space between the mattress and bed frame, the space between the mattress and then the wall, and also if a sleeping parent accidentally rolls over and covers the baby’s nose and mouth.
- Breast-feed your baby, if possible. Breastfeeding for at least six months can reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Offer a pacifier. Sucking on a pacifier without a strap or string at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Symptoms & Causes: Boston Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/s/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids/symptoms-and-causes
Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Preventing-SIDS.aspx