SIDS Awareness Month



October is National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month.  Sudden Death Syndrome or SIDS, is an unexplained death occurring during sleep of an otherwise healthy infant under 1 year of age.  SIDS is also known as crib death since infants die in their crib.

Although the cause is unknown, it appears that SIDS might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.  Researchers have discovered some factors that might put babies at extra risk.

Many parents have heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is at an all-time low however, approximately 400o infants die each year to sleep-related deaths.

A combination of sleep environment and physical factors can make an infant more vulnerable to SIDS.  These factors can vary from infant to infant.

Physical Factors Associated with SIDS:

  • Brain defects. Some infants are born with problems that make them more likely to die of SIDS. In many of these babies, the portion of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep hasn’t matured enough to work properly.
  • Low birth weight. Premature birth or being part of a multiple birth increases the likelihood that a baby’s brain hasn’t matured completely, so he or she has less control over such automatic processes like breathing and heart rate.
  • Respiratory infection. Many infants who died of SIDS had recently had a cold, which might contribute to breathing problems.

Sleep Environment Factors Associated with SIDS:

  • Sleeping on the stomach or side. Babies placed in these positions to sleep might have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.
  • Sleeping on a soft surface. Lying face down on a fluffy comforter, a soft mattress or a waterbed can block an infant’s airway.
  • Sharing a bed. While the risk of SIDS is lowered if an infant sleeps in the same room as his or her parents, the risk increases if the baby sleeps in the same bed with parents, siblings or pets.
  • Overheating. Being too warm while sleeping can increase a baby’s risk of SIDS.

What you can do to Lower the Risk:

  • Place your baby on his/her back to sleep each time.  Babies up to 1 year of age, should be placed on their back for sleeping.
  • If your baby falls asleep in a stroller, car seat or any other soft surface, be sure to move your baby to a firm surface to sleep as soon as possible.
  • Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the crib.  This includes stuffed toys, pillows, bumper pads, and comforters.
  • Place your baby to sleep in the same room where you sleep but not the same bed. Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents are at risk of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation. Parents can roll onto babies during sleep, or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. This helps reduce the risk of SIDS.  Do not use pacifiers that are attached to objects, such as stuffed toys and other items that may be a suffocation or choking risk.
  • Breastfeed as much and for as long as you can. This helps reduce the risk of SIDS.  The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. When you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months.
  • Schedule and go to all well-child visits. Your baby will receive important immunizations.  Recent evidence suggests that immunizations may have a protective effect against SIDS.
  • Keep your baby away from smokers and places where people smoke. This helps reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Overheating. Being too warm while sleeping can increase a baby’s risk of SIDS.  Keep your baby the room where your baby sleeps at a comfortable temperature.
  • Use caution when buying products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Specialized sleep surfaces have NOT been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Risk factors:

According to the Mayo Clinic, Although sudden infant death syndrome can strike any infant, researchers have identified several factors that might increase a baby’s risk. They include:

  • Sex. Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Age. Infants are most vulnerable between the second and fourth months of life.
  • Race. For reasons that aren’t well-understood, nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • Family history. Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke. Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Being premature. Both being born early and having a low birth weight increase your baby’s chances of SIDS.
Maternal risk factors

During pregnancy, the mother also affects her baby’s risk of SIDS, especially if she:

  • Is younger than 20.
  • Smokes cigarettes.
  • Uses drugs or alcohol.
  • Has inadequate prenatal care.

For More Information on SIDS, visit the American SIDS Institute.


The information contained in this Avenue 360 Web site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and Avenue 360 recommends consultation with your Avenue 360 doctor or health care professional.